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Protesters continue campaign at presidential palace in Egypt

Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, 9:22 p.m.

CAIRO — Protesters attacked the presidential palace here on Friday as the Arab world's most populous nation entered a second week of unrest.

Youths heaved Molotov cocktails and stones or shot fireworks over the palace walls, forcing a presidential guard to retreat until riot police fired tear gas, buckshot and water cannons into the crowd of more than 1,000.

One death and dozens of injuries were reported. Clashes erupted across Tahrir Square, and chanting crowds marched on parliament and the state television building.

The violence followed a day of peaceful protest against President Mohamed Morsy and the ruling Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic-based party that controls parliament.

Chaotic confrontations with police were broadcast live on Egyptian television. In one scene, police stripped and beat a demonstrator while an armored car fired into a crowd.

Anti-government protesters want a unity government, amendments to a new but controversial constitution, the dissolution of parliament and judicial independence. A growing chorus condemns the Islamic tenor of Morsy's eight-month rule.

Earlier in the day, Mohamed El Baradei, leader of the National Salvation Front opposition bloc and a Nobel laureate, wrote on his Twitter account that violence will continue until Morsy and the Brotherhood “listen to people's demands.”

Morsy's office responded with its own Twitter posts, accusing protesters of “attempting to storm the palace” and calling on the opposition to denounce the violence.

Many of the youths battling police are not controlled by any party, however — and some said the palace attack was in response to police kidnapping their comrades.

Egypt's top prosecutor has accused one such group, the Black Bloc, of terrorism and begun arresting its members. The bloc insists it is protecting demonstrators from Brotherhood attacks.

The thousands who turned out here and across the country on a rainy Friday were far fewer than in previous protests, but their rage against Morsy was no less fervent.

“You are not the protectors of religion, and we are not infidels!” one group chanted as it marched on the presidential palace. They spray-painted walls with slogans — “Liars in the name of religion!” and “Revenge!”

One demonstrator, Sherif Chalabi, 33, said the Brotherhood does not “care about anyone else, just themselves.”

“The Mubarak regime was bad, but the Morsy regime is even worse,” said Chalabi, a night manager at a luxury hotel.

Huda Fowzi said fellow protesters reject Egypt's Islamist-leaning constitution and want “a new government that represents all the Egyptian people.”

“If this is Islam, I don't want this Islam,” the 50-year-old architect declared.

Wael Hussein, 40, a tour guide, condemned the Brotherhood as a “huge block” on “the road of the revolution” and said Egyptians “don't want an Islamic regime, but a moderate regime.”

“I hope the American regime will stop the aid to the Muslim Brotherhood,” he added. “I hope they understand that the majority of the Egyptian people are moderate.”

Betsy Hiel is the Tribune-Review's foreign correspondent. Email her at




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