Militants killed two Egyptian soldiers in a gunfight in the Sinai peninsula Friday, as police in Cairo clashed with protesters demanding the reinstatement of deposed Islamist president Mohammed Mursi, security officials said.
The two soldiers, both conscripts, died when a gunbattle broke out after the troops came under fire, the army said in a statement, adding that at least three al-Qaeda-linked militants had died. It said the operation was continuing and armed helicopters had been deployed.
The group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, has claimed some of the deadliest attacks in a militant insurgency that killed dozens of soldiers and policemen since Mursi’s ouster in July.
In Cairo, police fired tear gas on pro-Mursi supporters who turned out in a weekly protest, the security officials said.
Mursi’s supporters hold almost daily protests and organize larger rallies on Fridays, despite a crackdown that has killed more than 1,000 people in clashes and imprisoned thousands more since his overthrow by the military.
Police on Friday also arrested 27 protesters in Cairo and dispersed demonstrations scattered across the capital, the officials said.
A health ministry official said one person was critically wounded in clashes between protesters and police in the canal city of Suez.
Prosecutors and police have alleged ties between militants in the Sinai peninsula and Mursi’s more moderate Muslim Brotherhood movement, charges the Brotherhood denies.
Mursi and 35 Islamists, including the Brotherhood’s senior leadership, will stand trial for allegedly colluding with Palestinian and Lebanese groups to conduct “terrorist” acts, the prosecution said this week.
Mursi, detained after his ouster on July 3, is already on trial for allegedly inciting the killings of opposition protesters during his year in power.
Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mursi quickly alienated a secular opposition, the police and the powerful military, which toppled and arrested him following mass protests demanding his resignation.
The military-installed interim government however has been accused of hypocrisy by erstwhile allies after it banned all but police sanctioned protests last month.
(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)