CAIRO — Riot police fired tear gas and locked down Tahrir Square on Friday as clashes broke out in a rare push by Islamist supporters of the ousted president to take control of the iconic square in Cairo, leaving at least four dead.
With lines of armored vehicles and barbed wire, troops sealed the square and diverted traffic after the Muslim Brotherhood, from which ousted president Mohammed Morsi hails, called on its supporters to march there.
Thousands of Morsi’s supporters followed suit from around the city, chanting “Sissi is the enemy of God” and “Down with the murderer!”
Those were references to Defense Minister Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi, who forced Morsi from power on July 3.
Since Morsi’s ouster, nearly 2,000 Muslim Brotherhood members have been arrested, its top leaders referred to courts over charges of inciting murder and violence, and hundreds of Morsi supporters have been killed. Morsi has been detained incommunicado.
On Friday, authorities arrested Ahmed Soubaei, a spokesman for the Freedom and Justice party, the Brotherhood’s political arm, the group said on its website.
In a reflection of the chaos, the spokesman of the liberal al-Dustour party, Khaled Dawoud, came under attack when he drove past pro-Morsi supporters marching near Tahrir Square. The assailants dragged him from his car, beat him, and stabbed him in the arm, Dawoud told the state-run Al-Ahram news site.
His party was founded by leading pro-democracy figure Mohamed ElBaradei, who acted as a vice president after Morsi’s ouster but quit to protest the state crackdown on the Brotherhood.
ElBaradei tweeted that the attack reflects “the adversity in which we live,” referring to his fears of violence between rival parties.