Last updated: February 1, 2013 10:12 pm

Egypt protesters throw firebombs at palace

A protester chants anti-Morsi slogans in front of the presidential palace in Cairo©Reuters

A protester chants anti-Morsi slogans in front of the presidential palace in Cairo

Young Egyptian activists, angry with the rule of Mohamed Morsi, threw firebombs into the grounds of the presidential palace on Friday during a ninth day of political unrest in the country.

Protesters cheered as they shot fireworks and tossed Molotov cocktails into the grounds of Itihadiya palace in north eastern Cairo, apparently setting some trees and shrubbery on fire and sending thick clouds of black smoke into the night-time sky.

Security forces on armoured personnel carriers turned water cannon on the crowd and fired teargas to try to drive them back in a battle that raged for hours. At least one person was killed, allegedly of gunshot wounds, and dozens injured in the melee, local media reported.

An Egyptian television channel showed live footage of police in riot gear beating and dragging a half-conscious naked man on the street near the palace, imagery sure to further provoke restive young protesters.

Egypt is paralysed by a month-long dispute between the Islamist government of Mr Morsi and its secular, liberal and lefwing opponents, who accuse the president and his Muslim Brotherhood allies of monopolising political power and hijacking a revolution led by leftwing youth.

Though the Brotherhood and its allies have won successive elections for parliament, the presidency and a new constitution, they have failed to win over parts of the population that view their tactics as anti-democratic and dishonest.

Despite heavy rain, demonstrators poured on to the streets of the capital and other Egyptian cities, including Alexandria and Suez, after Friday prayers. Opposition activists urged the Brotherhood to give up power.

“Null and void,” they chanted, describing the legitimacy of the Morsi government. “Liars! Liars! The Brotherhood are criminals. They sold the revolution and they sold religion.”

Days of angry nationwide protests against Mr Morsi have failed to yield a compromise breakthrough between the Islamists and the opposition.

Some opposition leaders and officials in the Morsi government signed a joint statement brokered by Al-Azhar mosque, condemning violence by security forces and police.

Nevertheless as night fell, young men carrying pipes and wearing the signature black masks of the militant Black Bloc movement could be seen streaming into Cairo’s Tahrir Square and along the capital’s riverfront, the scene of lengthy street battles between police and protesters over the past week.

At least 50 people have died in political violence since the latest unrest began on January 24. Many anticipate more violence in the days ahead.

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“The Muslim Brotherhood will eventually leave power but not now,” said Rima Mohamed, a 47-year-old demonstrating in Tahrir Square. “They will not go unless there is a lot of blood, because this is the opportunity they have waited for for a long time and they will not give it up easily.”

Opponents of the Brotherhood have demanded that the authorities forge a national unity government that includes more liberals, leftwingers and Coptic Christians, amend the constitution and replace a public prosecutor deemed an Islamist crony.

The Brotherhood has accused the opposition of obstructing the country’s social and economic progress by engaging in thuggery and serving the interests of the former regime.

International observers and Egypt’s armed forces have voiced alarm over the chaos on the streets and political uncertainty, which has dimmed hopes for an economic recovery.

The Brotherhood, for its part, sent an army of volunteers into poor neighbourhoods to clean up mounds of rubbish accumulating on streets, the group announced on its social media outlets.

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