Supporters and opponents of Egypt's ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi clash in Cairo, Egypt, on Oct. 6, 2013.
(Photo: Hassan Ammar, AP)
CAIRO (USA Today) - At least 44 people were killed nationwide Sunday as clashes erupted between security forces and protesters on a major holiday.
Hundreds more were also injured when the violence broke out as rival protesters took to the streets and the country marked the 40th anniversary of a celebrated Egyptian military campaign against Israeli forces in the Sinai Peninsula.
Security forces fired tear gas as the sounds of gunfire echoed across the capital while anti-military backers of ousted leader Mohammed Morsi tried to reach Tahrir Square, where supporters of the military had already gathered.
Tanks surrounded the square as thousands of people converged, waving Egyptian flags and cheering on military helicopters and jets flying above as part of the celebration.
Authorities over the weekend had warned opponents of the military not to protest, and security was boosted in anticipation of marches across the capital.
Protester Khaled Hassein, 46, a teacher, said he expected clashes to erupt. "But I came anyway," he said, standing among a crowd in the Cairo neighborhood Dokki as clashes spewed nearby and tear gas billowed. "My principles forced me to come."
For three months, thousands of Egyptians like Hassein have protested a July 3 coup that ousted the Muslim Brotherhood's Morsi, who was democratically elected in June last year but blamed by many for governing the country inadequately.
Since the coup, the military-backed leadership has continued a crackdown on the Brotherhood and other Islamists, claiming the government is fighting terrorism.
Authorities have thrown thousands of Brotherhood members in jail, effectively decapitating the movement's leadership. Hundreds of people have died in the violence and last month, an Egyptian court banned the Brotherhood.
But the movement has kept up its protests.
"We want to reach Tahrir Square to raise our voice," said Hossam El Din, an engineer, after being pushed back Sunday from a planned protest route by security forces.
Political analyst Mazen Hassan said the governing elite and the military are not likely to take any serious steps to offer concessions or make a deal with the Brotherhood, making additional demonstrations and violence likely.
"The government and the military believe that they have the backing of the majority of the population and that makes them reluctant to make concessions," he said.