Egypt's interim president announces Sunday that the country will have presidential elections before parliamentary polls.
"I have taken my decision to amend the roadmap by which we will hold presidential elections first followed by parliamentary elections," said Adly Mansour. "Today, I will request the Higher Presidential Elections Committee to open the floor for the candidates in the presidential race and to do so in accordance with clause 230 in the amended constitution.''
Speculation mounts that army chief General Abdel Fatah el-Sissi, who ousted country's first freely-elected civilian president, will run for the top office.
Meanwhile, Egyptian officials say clashes with anti-government protesters have left at least 49 people dead as government supporters marked the third anniversary of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.
Authorities said Sunday the deaths occurred over a span of 24 hours as anti-government activists fought security forces and government loyalists.
They say most of those killed were in Cairo, where thousands of people had gathered Saturday in a show of support for the current government. Nearly 250 people were said to have been wounded in clashes across Egypt. More than 1,000 protesters were reported to have been arrested.
Hundreds of anti-military protesters, both supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi and secular activists opposed to both camps, gathered on the third anniversary of the country's 2011 uprising before security forces dispersed them.
Government officials say fatalities occurred at anti-government protests that coincided with government sanctioned celebrations that were staged to show support for the current military-installed leadership.
Throughout the afternoon and into the evening, thousands of pro-government supporters flooded Tahrir Square, chanting and waving flags and posters as they pledged support for el-Sissi, Egypt's current defense minister and de facto leader who toppled Egypt's first democratically-elected civilain President Mohamed Morsi.
Egypt's interim government has hinted several times in recent weeks that presidential elections will take place later this year before parliamentary elections.
Former parliamentarian Mustafa Bakri, a fervent Sissi supporter who addressed the enthusiastic crowd of ululating women and young men beating drums, insisted that the "people, the police and the army were now united in victory." He went on to say that "traitors and criminals" were "plotting to destroy the country," and that the "U.S. wants turmoil" in Egypt and the Arab world.
Government supporters repelled several attempts by Morsi supporters to march into the square as helicopters flew overhead, dropping small Egyptian flags into the crowd.
A protester wounded in clashes with security forces is evacuated from the site in the Mohandiseen district of Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014.
Egyptian security forces fired tear gas at small clusters of unruly Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Cairo's Mohandiseen district, where Morsi supporters chanted slogans against the government and el-Sissi.
Sky News Arabia reports that more than 400 Morsi supporters were arrested. Similar unrest took place in other parts of the country.
As Saturday's ceremony got under way, a car bomb exploded near a security facility in the city of Suez. The force of the blast burst a water main, inundating a main street near security headquarters in the city. Al Arabiya TV reported that 18 people were wounded in the blast, which was some distance away from the building.
Earlier, a bomb exploded near a Cairo police academy. Both attacks come a day after at least 20 protesters and six policemen were killed in a series of explosions that rocked Cairo. A Sinai-based militant group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, claimed responsibility for the bombing.
Egyptian state television also reported that an army helicopter crashed in the Sinai, killing five soldiers on board. It was not immediately clear why chopper crashed. For months the army has been battling Islamist militants in the northern Sinai, where dozens of soldiers and police have been killed in the fighting and in attacks on government installations.
Egypt has been mired in political turmoil since July 3, when army el-Sissi ousted Morsi, the country's first freely-elected civilian president.
Last year, the military-backed government of secularists and liberals that replaced Morsi also designated the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group following a bombing of security offices in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura that killed 15 people. Ansar Beit al-Maqdis claimed responsibilty for Mansoura bombing.
More than 1,400 of Morsi supporters have been killed in the security crackdown following his removal from power. The security crackdown has been extended to secular-minded liberals, including ones who played a key role in the 2011 uprising. Human rights groups have accused the Egyptian authorities of quashing dissent and using excessive force, calling the state violence since Morsi's ouster unprecedented.
Egypt's most prominent rights groups criticized the government for using the "purported aim of 'countering terrorism' as justification to commit arbitrary arrests and restrict freedoms."
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Although the Brotherhood has been nearly crushed by the state, the group has a history of rebounding.
"Their soft, non-ideological support from Egyptian society has collapsed but their most energized core remains more zealous than ever," said Michael Hanna of the Century Foundation in New York. "The Brotherhood and its supporters are not something that can be swept aside easily they have a substantial and resilient core."
Egyptian diplomats kidnapped
Separately, Libya's justice minister, Salah Mirghani, has apologized for the kidnapping of five Egyptian diplomats in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, by an Islamic militia. A militant from the group holding the diplomats has demanded that the Egyptian government release one of its members whom he claimed was "studying in the port city of Alexandria." Other reports said the man was a Libyan militia leader who had traveled to Alexandria to meet with local Islamic militants.
Some information for this report comes from Reuters and AP.