A divided Egypt marks anniversary of Mideast war

By Hamza Hendawi

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Oct. 6 2013 10:17 a.m. MDT

In what was a strikingly different 39th anniversary celebration of the war last year, the Brotherhood had packed Cairo's main stadium with its supporters. Beaming and victoriously waving to the crowd, Morsi entered the stadium riding an open SUV, taking a lap around the track without any of the army's commanders alongside him.

Interim President Adly Mansour gave a nationally televised speech Saturday night urged people to take to the streets to celebrate the Oct. 6 anniversary and "support your army." His media adviser, Ahmed el-Muslemani, said anyone demonstrating against the military during the holiday was doing the work of foreign "agents."

Ushering in the commemoration of the war, some two dozen F-16 jet-fighters staged a celebratory flight over Cairo, a city of 18 million whose streets were uncharacteristically empty by early afternoon even though Oct. 6 has traditionally been a national holiday. Only the scream of the jets broke the quiet.

Tahrir Square is the birthplace of the 2011 uprising against autocrat Hosni Mubarak and has since been the site of choice for Egyptian demonstrators. The possibility of bloodshed there on an occasion revered by most Egyptians is the latest evidence of a destructive schism that began to surface soon after Morsi's narrow election victory in June 2012.

Morsi was ousted in a July 3 coup that followed demonstrations by millions of Egyptians demanding that he step down. Egypt's first freely elected president, Morsi has since been detained in an undisclosed location, something that his supporters refer to as a "kidnapping."

Sunday's faceoff will be the latest episode in the turmoil roiling Egypt since Mubarak's ouster in February 2011. The military-backed government has since Morsi's departure rounded up at least 2,000 members of his Muslim Brotherhood, including most of the Islamist group's leaders. A crackdown on sit-in protest camps by Morsi's supporters and subsequent violence left at least 1,000 people dead.

Brotherhood supporters have since been staging near daily protests to demand Morsi's reinstatement. Their numbers have greatly dwindled in recent weeks but they have been energetically mobilizing for Sunday's rallies, saying they want to celebrate the war's anniversary while denouncing the military leadership that toppled Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president.

The Brotherhood claims that its protests are peaceful, but there have over the past three months been cases when Morsi's supporters have carried and used firearms, clubs or firebombs.

Liberal politician Khaled Dawoud was attacked by a mob of Morsi supporters this weekend when he was inadvertently caught up in a protest. He said he tried to drive away from the scene but heavy traffic allowed his pursuers to catch up and break his car's windows with rocks.

Dawoud said they stabbed him several times, including once near his heart, and attempted to saw off his left hand. Dawoud, who is the spokesman for the liberal al-Dustour party led by reform leader Mohamed ElBaradei, remains hospitalized.

Dawoud relentlessly campaigned against Morsi's rule but has also criticized the violent crackdown against the Brotherhood and the media's vilification of the group.

It is rare for a figure as prominent as Dawoud to be caught up directly in the widespread political violence. Apart from the bloodshed, the deep political divisions among Egyptians are manifested in a multitude of ways every day as supporters of the military seek to ostracize Brotherhood members in government departments, the education system and trade unions, with heated arguments and fist fights now commonplace.

Associated Press reporter Mariam Rizk contributed to this report.

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