At least three students have reportedly been killed after Egyptian security guards attacked anti-government protest rallies in several cities across the North African country. At least two Egyptian army officers have been killed in clashes with militants in north of the capital, Cairo.
According to reports, Egyptian riot police fired tear gas and birdshots to break up the anti-government demonstrations held in several university campuses across Egypt, including the campus of al-Azhar University in the capital, Cairo, on Wednesday.
During the protests, the Egyptian students called for the reinstatement of the country’s first democratically-elected president, Mohamed Morsi, who had been deposed by the military in July last year.
Reports further said Egyptian security forces arrested a number of pro-Morsi students participating in the demonstrations, as the military-installed government continues its clampdown on dissent.
Earlier on Wednesday, government forces also broke up a similar protest rally in Egypt’s northern Delta province of Damietta.
According to Press TV, the officers were shot dead by militants during a police raid on their hideout near the Nile Delta town al-Qanatir al-Khayriya on Wednesday.
In Qalubiya province, north of Cairo, two soldiers were killed in a shootout with Islamist militants, the Interior Ministry said, adding that six militants were killed and eight arrested in a raid on a weapons storage facility.
A 13-year-old boy was shot dead in southern Egypt and one man was killed in Cairo, both in clashes between police and supporters of deposed elected President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood, the health ministry said.
Violence, which has dogged Egypt since a popular uprising toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011, is expected to intensify as the country prepares for a presidential vote that army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is expected to win easily.
The Interior Ministry said the two soldiers were killed in a raid on members of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, Egypt’s most active militant group.
The Sinai-based group has claimed responsibility for several high-profile attacks, including an assassination attempt on the interior minister last year.
A health official said a 13-year-old boy was shot dead in clashes between police and pro-Mursi protesters in the city of Beni Suef, south of Cairo. The Interior Ministry said 12 protesters were arrested.
Some 200 policemen and soldiers have been killed by militants in bombings and shootings since the army ousted president Mohamed Morsi.
On March 15, armed assailants shot dead six soldiers at a military checkpoint in Cairo’s northern neighborhood of Shubra al-Kheima.
The Egyptian military has pointed the finger of blame at Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters of Morsi
Egypt has declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group, killed hundreds of its supporters and arrested thousands.
On Wednesday, about 300 women, supporters of Mursi, most of them covered from head to toe in black, protested outside Al Azhar university, a centre of Islamic learning. They chanted “down with military rule.”
The Brotherhood denies it has links with violent militant groups and says is committed to peaceful activism.
While the state has devastated the Brotherhood, tackling Sinai-based militant groups has proven to be a far greater challenge.
Security sources said the militants targeted on Wednesday were linked to a March 15 attack by gunmen who killed six army officers near Cairo.
The Islamist insurgency has spread from the Sinai to other parts of the Arab world’s biggest nation, including Cairo, since Mursi’s fall.
“The violence is likely to increase as the political process continues, especially if Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announces his candidacy, but it won’t have a big effect on political measures,” said Mohamed Gomaa, political analyst at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.
Egypt has been experiencing unrelenting violence since the country’s former president was ousted. Hundreds have lost their lives in the ensuing violence across the country.
Egypt’s army, the largest in the Arab world, has launched several offensives against militants in the Sinai, but Islamist fighters who have mastered the terrain remain highly effective, residents say.
In the 1990s, it took Mubarak’s government years to stamp out an Islamist insurgency