London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Following nation-wide violence on Friday that resulted in three deaths and hundreds of injuries, Egypt is preparing for even more chaos as the much anticipated June 30 anti-government protests get underway tomorrow.
Deadly clashes broke out across Egypt yesterday as both supporters and opponents of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi staged mass demonstrations across the country.
In Cairo, thousands of Mursi supporters rallied in defense of the Islamist president. At the same time, anti-Mursi protesters took to the streets in Cairo, Alexandria, and Port Said in preparation for tomorrow’s protests seeking to oust the Egyptian leader.
Among the dead was an American national, later identified by the US State Department as Andrew Pochter. He was reportedly killed while photographing street battles between Mursi opponents and supporters in Alexandria.
A total of two people were killed in the northern Egyptian city of Alexandria—including the 21-year old US national—as protesters stormed a Muslim Brotherhood office. The Muslim Brotherhood revealed that eight of its offices across Egypt had come under attack by anti-government protesters.
Washington warned Americans not to travel to Egypt following the incident, in addition to evacuating non-emergency diplomatic staff.
Speaking earlier today, US President Barack Obama urged Egypt’s opposition and government to move away from violence and engage in a constructive dialogue.
“Obviously we are all looking at the situation [in Egypt] with concern,” the US president said speaking from South Africa.
“We support peaceful protests and peaceful methods of bringing about change in Egypt,” Obama said, calling on all parties to “denounce violence.”
In Port Said, an explosion during an anti-Mursi protest killer another man, Egyptian police reported. At least twelve others were injured in the bombing that rocked the protests in the city’s Martyrs Square on Friday night.
Initial reports indicate that the incident was the result of a gas cylinder exploding after accidentally being struck by fireworks. Local media reports identified the man killed as 38-year old Egyptian journalist Salah Hassan.
However Egyptian security sources later revealed that the fatal blast was the result of a home-made hand grenade. Reuters reported that traces of explosive substance were found on the bodies of the wounded, while ballistics tests were still underway.
In response to the protests, the Egyptian government has deployed military security forces to patrol the streets, state media reported.
The June 30 protests, organized by the opposition Tamarod (Rebellion) campaign has claimed to have gathered more than 22 million signatures demanding the departure of the Islamist president and a snap election. However pro-Mursi supporters have launched a petition of their own entitled the Tajaord (Impartiality) movement, which claims to have collected 11 million signatures in support of the embattled president.
Mass protests are expected across the country on Sunday, marking Mursi’s first year in office.