CAIRO - Egyptian police used tear gas to disperse protests by supporters of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo and several other cities Friday. Demonstrators are protesting the recently announced presidential bid by former defense minister Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.
The demonstrations were called to coincide with Friday prayers, but the largest in the Giza district of Mohandesin was quickly dispersed after police fired intermittent volleys of tear gas. Another protest near a mosque in Egypt's second-largest city of Alexandria was also dispersed.
Arab TV channels showed video of masked protesters throwing Molotov cocktails at passing cars in front of Cairo's venerable al-Azhar University. The band of young men ran in and out of traffic before retreating onto the campus. Both al-Azhar and Cairo Universities have witnessed sporadic clashes in recent days.
Protesters tried to block traffic on several main highways, burning tires and charging vehicles trying to get around them. Police used bulldozers to clear the tires in one Cairo suburb and the road was re-opened. Al-Jazeera TV reported that a number of people were arrested.
Egypt's state news agency MENA reported that protesters fired birdshot in the Cairo suburb of Helwan and in the town of Fayum, south of the capital. Police used tear gas to disperse them.
A crowd of supporters of Egypt's recently-resigned defense minister Abdel Fattah el-Sissi held its own demonstration near Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square. The crowd waved flags, banners and portraits of the general in support of his recently announced bid for president.
Well-known military analyst and retired General Sameh Seif al-Yazel told al Arabiya TV that elections would probably take place on May 17 and 18. Candidates will have until April 15 to gather the required 15,000 signatures and present them to Egypt's electoral commission.
The Muslim Brotherhood, many of whose top leaders are now under arrest, is boycotting the election and staging sporadic protests against Egypt's interim government. The Egyptian military removed Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in a popularly backed takeover last July.
The Brotherhood criticized General Sissi in a statement Thursday, saying he “broke the oath he made before the elected president... by toppling him.” Tens of thousands of people turned out to support the army takeover on July 3 after Morsi's popularity had plummeted.