Cairo - Backers and opponents of Egypt's deposed Islamist
president Mohammed Morsi began on Friday to rally for rival mass demonstrations
called separately by Islamists and the military.
Scores of anti-Islamist activists were turning out at
central Cairo's Tahrir Square in response to a call made by army chief
Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, who engineered Morsi's ouster earlier this month.
Army tanks and armoured vehicles have been deployed around
the iconic square as volunteers manned checkpoints to verify participants'
identities. Pro-al-Sissi banners were hung across the place.
Al-Sissi has called on Egyptians to take to the streets
nationwide to back a possible crackdown by the army upon Morsi's Brotherhood,
which opponents accuse of inciting violence in the country since the army
deposed the Islamist leader on July 3.
The Brotherhood and allied Islamists have denounced
al-Sissi's call as a "declaration of civil war" and vowed to continue
protests until Morsi is restored to office.
The army Thursday gave Islamists a 48-hour deadline to back
down or face a clampdown.
The Brotherhood insists that its protests are peaceful and
accuses the military and police of hiring thugs to attack its supporters.
The Islamist group's followers were Friday flocking to the
area of Rabaa al-Adawiya in north-eastern Cairo, joining many others who have
been camping there for weeks to protest what they call a military coup against
Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president.
The demonstrations deepen the country's political polarisation
and raise fears about further street violence between Morsi's supporters and
Dozens have been killed in Egypt, the Arab world's most
populous country, since the army removed Morsi after millions protested to
demand he step down.