Two Egyptian army officers were killed in targeted attacks Friday, officials said, even as a government clampdown appeared to have staved off a call by Islamist groups for mass protests, which would have been the first such large-scale street unrest in months.
More than 15 months after an estimated 1,000 supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi were killed by security forces, the attempt by Islamist groups to bring supporters out in a show of popular support appeared to have fizzled. At least one demonstrator was shot dead and about a dozen were reported hurt in scattered protests that broke out in parts of Cairo, the coastal city of Alexandria and other locales.
On the eve of the planned mass street action, more than 100 suspected Islamist activists were arrested in police raids. More than 225 additional arrests were reported by Friday evening.
Suspected Islamic militants have carried out dozens of attacks in recent months against senior members of the police and military, and the Health Ministry reported the shooting deaths of two military men early Friday in Cairo.
The Egyptian capital was on lockdown for much of Friday, with a heavy security presence in sensitive sites such as Tahrir Square, the downtown plaza that was an epicenter of the 2011 protests that drove autocrat Hosni Mubarak from power.
At least 10 bombs were found and defused across the country, state media reported.
The government said in advance that security forces had been authorized to use lethal means to quell any unrest. A conservative Salafi Muslim group had spearheaded the protest call, which was endorsed by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.
Since the July 2013 coup that ousted Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, the administration led by former army chief Abdel Fattah Sisi has jailed thousands of Morsi backers -- together with smaller numbers of secular figures prominent in the revolution that toppled Mubarak -- and sharply curtailed freedoms of assembly and expression.
The Sisi government has made targets of anyone involved with political Islam. The Cabinet this week approved a tough new measure that broadly defined “terrorist entities” and the steps that could be taken against them.
Special correspondent Amro Hassan contributed to this report.
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