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Clashes in Egypt on eve of uprising anniversary

Protesters tried to tear down a concrete wall built to prevent them from reaching Parliament near Tahrir Square in Cairo.

Hussein Tallal /Associated Press

Protesters tried to tear down a concrete wall built to prevent them from reaching Parliament near Tahrir Square in Cairo.

CAIRO — Egyptian riot police fired tear gas and clashed all day Thursday with dozens of protesters as they tried to tear down a concrete wall built to prevent demonstrators from reaching the Parliament and the Cabinet building in central Cairo. Some in the crowd threw rocks and Molotov cocktails.

The violence came on the eve of the second anniversary of Egypt’s uprising that toppled longtime authoritarian President Hosni Mubarak. Three weeks of mass protests that erupted on Jan. 25, 2011, eventually forced Mubarak out of office.

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Since then, Egypt has under­gone a tumultuous transition under the interim leadership of military generals until the election last June of Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood group. His first six months in office were marked by political tensions, street clashes, and an economic crunch that sapped his popularity.

Thursday’s clashes, which left dozens injured, may foreshadow a violent anniversary on Friday, when youth activists and opposition groups have called for large rallies in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and in front of the presidential palace in the upscale Heliopolis suburb.

Die-hard fans of Egypt’s most popular soccer team, ­Ahly, took part in the clashes, warned in a statement, ‘‘the price of blood is blood,’’ in reference to the deaths of many of their friends last year in a violent rampage at a soccer game that left 74 dead.

The group is also calling for mass protests on Jan. 26, the day a court is expected to rule in a trial of security officials related to the soccer deaths, one of the world’s bloodiest instances of violence at a sports event.

On Tuesday, in an attempt to assuage anger, Morsi said the victims will be considered ‘‘martyrs,’’ which meant that their families will receive compensations like those killed in the uprising against Mubarak.

The same day, Egypt’s prosecutor general, a Morsi appointee, asked the court to give more time for the prosecutor to introduce new findings and new defendants before issuing its verdict, in what was seen as another move to postpone the verdict and avoid street violence by the soccer fans.

On Wednesday, the fans held a sit-in in front of Egypt’s stock market, briefly blocked a highway, and set up tents in Tahrir Square. The group has been at odds with police, and it played a key role in the uprising.

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