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Islamists rally in Cairo against opposition

Above, demonstrators gathered in front of Cairo University Friday to support Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. Below, antiregime protesters threw stones and Molotov cocktails at El-Quba, one of the presidential palaces.

Amr Nabil/Associated Press

Demonstrators gathered in front of Cairo University Friday to support Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.

CAIRO — Several thousand hard-line Islamists rallied in Cairo on Friday against a recent wave of violent antigovernment protests, while liberal activists staged a smaller demonstration across the city to call for accountability and justice from the country’s leaders.


Antiregime protesters threw stones and Molotov cocktails at El-Quba, one of the presidential palaces.

The parallel rallies mirror the deep divisions that have plagued Egypt in the two years since longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, leaving the country’s politics polarized, its people frustrated, and its economy battered.

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The current cycle of unrest erupted three weeks ago around the second anniversary of the uprising that toppled Mubarak. The opposition accuses President Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist who was elected in June, and his Muslim Brotherhood party of trying to monopolize power and of using violence against dissenters.

In the latest accusation, activists of the Free Front for Peaceful Change say one of their members, Ibrahim Hanafi, was abducted by three men in a white microbus who poured boiling water on his back before dumping him on the side of the road.

‘‘They told me to stay away from the Brotherhood and politics, and just worry about putting food on the table,’’ Hanafi says in a the video uploaded to YouTube on Thursday.

Brotherhood spokesmen could not be immediately reached for comment.

The president and his backers insist that the opposition’s relentless protests calling for reform have hurt the economy and have made implementing changes impossible.

Egypt’s economy took another hit this week, with Moody’s rating agency downgrading five of the country’s banks, citing ‘‘the weakening capacity of the Egyptian authorities to support the government-owned banks.’’

Egypt’s foreign currency reserves have fallen below the central bank’s ‘‘critical minimum’’ to $13.61 billion, threatening the country’s ability to secure a nearly $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund that could free up other loan requests.

In a show of support for the president on Friday, around 5,000 Islamist supporters gathered in front of Cairo University for a rally dubbed ‘‘No to violence.’’ Some of the demonstrators carried banners that read: ‘‘People want an iron fist’’ and ‘‘Yes to Islamic law.’’

The protest was largely seen as a denunciation of the antigovernment demonstrations in recent weeks that have frequently turned violent, leaving more than 70 people dead.

Across town, a crowd of around 1,000 liberal activists rallied outside the Qasr al-Kobba palace, one of the president’s secondary palaces. Police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd who tried to scale its walls.

The scenes were similar to what has unfolded in past weeks at the main Cairo palace where police and protesters have fought.

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