In Egypt, demonstrations, death mark anniversary of 1973 war

At least 53 reported dead after authorities issue stern warning to anti- and pro-government groups

Tires burn as supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted president Mohamed Morsi clash with riot police along Ramses Street in downtown Cairo on Sunday.
Mohammed Abdel Moneim/AFP/Getty Images

A day of demonstrations has left at least 53 people dead and 268 injured across Egypt, according to the government's Health Ministry. The toll rose steadily through Sunday and includes at least one dead in the province of Minya, 150 miles south of Cairo, where police are reported to have fired live rounds into a crowd protesting the military-backed government. Police used tear gas to disperse protesters in Cairo near Tahrir Square and in Alexandria, Egypt's second-largest city.

Egyptian authorities warned against anti-government protests Sunday as the country planned to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the October 1973 war — often referred to as the Yom Kippur War — saying protesters would be treated like foreign agents.

"Protesters against the army on the anniversary of (the Oct. 6) victory will be carrying out the duties of agents, not activists," said Ahmed al-Muslimani, a presidential spokesman. "It is not befitting to go from a struggle against authorities to a conflict with the nation."

The warning came in response to calls by the Muslim Brotherhood to commemorate the war by staging demonstrations against the government, which replaced President Mohamed Morsi after a military coup on July 3.  

The Muslim Brotherhood wasn't the only group expected to rally on Sunday. Government supporters also planned to commemorate the 1973 attack by Egypt and Syria on Israeli-occupied territories, which preceded the Camp David Accords, the Sinai's return to Egypt and normalization of relations.

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Political tensions have gripped Egypt and stymied its economy since the army ousted Morsi, installed an interim government and drew up a political road map that it promised would bring fair elections.

On Saturday an estimated 1,000 anti-government protesters tried to reach Rabaa al-Adawiya Mosque in northeastern Cairo, where security forces crushed a protest camps in August. All but about 50 protesters were turned back by police, who fired tear gas, security sources said.

Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said security forces would not tolerate attempts to block roads or "spread chaos," Egypt's state news agency reported. The Interior Ministry said security had been stepped up on highways, in all cities and at important installations.

"The ministry will deal with the utmost firmness and decisiveness with any of those practices and confront any lawlessness," he was quoted as saying.

Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi said in a statement to the nation that "evil elements" still posed a danger but had lost much of their power — an apparent reference to the Muslim Brotherhood.

State security forces killed hundreds of people in a crackdown on the Islamist group, which successfully fielded political candidates in elections after Mubarak's fall but lost favor with the public during Morsi's rule. Many Egyptians accused him of trying to acquire sweeping powers and mismanaging the economy — allegations he denied.

Al Jazeera and Reuters

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