Thousands of supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi marched through Cairo on Sunday towards Tahrir Square, where pro-army supporters gathered to celebrate the anniversary of an attack on Israeli forces in 1973. A member of Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood was killed and at least two were wounded when marchers clashed with police in a town 300 km (190 miles) south of Cairo, security and medical sources said. Egyptian authorities had warned on Saturday that anyone who protested against the army during the October 6 ceremonies would be regarded as an agent of foreign powers, not an activist.
Clashes between Mursi supporters and police broke out in several cities, including Alexandria, Suez and Aswan. Thousands of members of the Brotherhood, which was recently banned, reached within five city blocks of Tahrir - the rallying point for protestors during the revolt that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Police fired tear gas to try and keep them away from the square, where people gathered for celebrations to commemorate an attack on Israeli forces during the 1973 war when Egyptian troops crossed the Suez Canal and brought down fortifications. Riot police also beat protesters who headed towards Tahrir, said a Reuters reporter at the scene. The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's oldest and most influential Islamist group, has demonstrated repeatedly against the army's overthrow of Mursi in July.
By Sunday afternoon state television broadcast live footage from Tahrir Square and Alexandria showing crowds waving Egyptian flags and carrying photographs of army chief General Abdel Fatah el-Sisi, the man who ousted Mursi. Sisi has promised a political roadmap would bring free and fair elections and stability to Egypt, the most populous Arab state. The Muslim Brotherhood has rejected the political transition, saying the army-backed government installed by Sisi is illegitimate. Islam Tawfik, a Brotherhood member and journalist, said supporters of the group, many of whom have been jailed since the army's overthrow of Mursi, were determined to reach Tahrir.
"Those of us taking to the streets today want to celebrate the army that used to point its weapons towards the enemy and not towards its people," he told Reuters. "We want to enter Tahrir and Rabaa (site of an earlier Muslim Brotherhood protest sit-in) because they are not reserved for those supportive of the coup," he said. Authorities have cracked down hard on the Brotherhood, which won every election after Mubarak's fall but became unpopular during Mursi's rule, with many Egyptians accusing him of trying to acquire sweeping powers and mismanaging the economy. He denies the allegations. The Brotherhood accuses the army of staging a coup and sabotaging democracy by ousting Mursi, the first freely-elected president in Egypt, a key US ally which has a peace treaty with Israel and controls the Suez Canal, a vital global trade route. The military says it was acting in line with the will of the people after mass protests against Mursi's rule.
On August 14, Egypt's military-backed authorities smashed two pro-Mursi sit-ins in Cairo, with hundreds of deaths, and then declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew. Many of the Brotherhood's leaders have been arrested since. Egyptian authorities have tightened security around the country since clashes killed at least four people on Friday, when Mursi's supporters mounted their boldest demonstrations since troops crushed their protest camps.