Divided Egypt marks third anniversary of uprising

An Egyptian masked policeman guards Cairo's state security chief, Osama al-Saghir, third right, as he visits Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the 2011 uprising, in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014.(AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

An Egyptian masked policeman guards Cairo’s state security chief, Osama al-Saghir, third right, as he visits Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the 2011 uprising, in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014.(AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

CAIRO: With dancing horses and traditional folklore music, supporters of the military-backed government celebrated and called on the army chief to run for president in rallies marking the third anniversary of the country’s 2011 uprising, as security forces firing tear gas battled rival demonstrations, both by supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and by secular activists opposed to both camps.

The starkly contrasting scenes reflected the three years of turmoil that have split Egyptians into polarized camps since the revolt that began on Jan. 25, 2011, ousting autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak – followed by last summer’s millions-strong demonstrations against Mubarak’s elected successor, Morsi, that led to the coup removing him

Morsi’s supporters were using Saturday’s anniversary for building up a new momentum in defiance to the military and its political transition plan, despite months of a fierce crackdown that has crippled their ranks and rising public resentment against the group.

Pro-military demonstrators, meanwhile, were turning out in state-backed rallies to show their support for army chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the man who ousted Morsi and whom many of those in the rallies want to now run for president.

Security forces also moved to shut down rallies marking the anniversary by secular youth activists who led the 2011 anti-Mubarak uprising and who are critical of both the Islamists and the military. A number of their most prominent figures have been in prison for months amid a campaign to silence even secular voices of dissent.

Police used tear gas to disperse one small gathering by activists in the Cairo district of Mohandessin, blogger Wael Khalil said. One prominent activist, Nazli Hussein, was detained by police on the subway as she headed from her home to join one such rally downtown, her mother, Ghada Shahbendar said.

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