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Islamists hold scattered protests across Egypt

CAIRO — Supporters of Egypt’s ousted Islamist president held scattered protests across the country on Friday, calling off a planned rally at Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square almost a week after bloody clashes left nearly 60 dead.

Since the popularly backed July 3 overthrow of Mohammed Morsi, his supporters have held near-daily protests demanding his return and sharply criticizing military leaders. Clashes have often erupted between the protesters and security forces and supporters of the military.

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On Friday, thousands of Morsi supporters took to the streets in several cities, commemorating 100 days since Morsi’s ouster. Police used tear gas and the military fired in the air to disperse a few rallies in Cairo, Alexandria, and in the southern city of Assiut.

Seven were injured in the Delta city of Damietta, and a protester died from natural causes in another Delta province, said Khaled el-Khateeb, a health ministry official.

As tension continued, there were no sign of a political solution to break the deadlock, despite attempts by some to find a way out.

The protests against Morsi’s ouster have coincided with a surge in attacks by militant groups against security forces in the volatile northern Sinai Peninsula and other parts of the country. Officials say some of the militants behind the attacks were allies of the former president’s Muslim Brotherhood group.

Also Friday, nine army conscripts and one officer were wounded when an explosive device laid in tunnels near the border with the Palestinian Gaza Strip went off, a security official said.

The explosives were left in smuggling tunnels in the Egyptian town of Rafah, along the border with neighboring Gaza, and were set off as armored vehicles drove over them.

The official said two vehicles were damaged in the attack. He said military helicopters later fired at a house and a tunnel along the border in response.

He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The military-backed interim government has cracked down on Islamists, accusing top leaders of the Brotherhood and other groups of incitement and murder, rounding up some 2,000 members and killing hundreds of pro-Morsi demonstrators.

Officials and the media have depicted the Brotherhood and its Islamist allies as a threat to the nation, presenting the crackdown against them as a fight against terrorism.

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