Protests have broken out in parts of Egypt with demonstrators calling for the departure of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi amid a high-security alert.
Following Friday prayers in the Warraq area in Giza governorate, demonstrators chanted slogans calling for the resignation of el-Sisi and raised slogans condemning the deterioration of living conditions in the country as well as the spread of corruption.
Witnesses and security sources said police fired tear gas to disperse up to 1,000 protesters that were shouting “Leave Sisi”, reported Reuters news agency.
Demonstrations were also witnessed on the streets of Luxor and Qena governorates.
In Cairo, security forces closed off entrances to Tahrir Square, the hub of the 2011 uprising that toppled former leader Hosni Mubarak. There was a heavy police presence around the square and at some junctions in the city centre.
Simultaneously, pro-Sisi demonstrations were also taking place in Alexandria, north Egypt.
Buses ferried people including company employees from Cairo and other cities to the rally, where crowds waved Egyptian flags and pictures of Sisi. Delta Sugar Company, a state firm, said it had bussed in workers from its factory in the Nile Delta and offices in Cairo.
At Cairo’s Al-Fateh mosque, a starting point for protests in 2011, dozens of police, some in uniform and others in plainclothes with masks and large guns, stood near the exit as prayers finished. At least 20 security vehicles were stationed around the mosque or patrolling nearby.
Security forces also stepped up their presence in main squares in major cities and plainclothes police have been checking motorists’ and pedestrians’ mobile phones for political content.
Earlier, Egypt’s president played down a call for protests against his rule, saying there were “no reasons for concern” even as the army and the police tightened security in the capital.
Rights groups said nearly 2,000 people have been arrested so far in a broad crackdown following last week’s small but rare demonstrations against el-Sisi, who took power in a 2013 coup.
In a brief statement on Thursday, Egypt’s Ministry of Interior warned it would “confront any attempt to destabilise social peace in a firm and decisive way”.
Last week’s protests were in response to a call for action from Mohamed Ali, an Egyptian businessman who accused el-Sisi of wasting public funds on vanity projects despite widespread poverty. The former military contractor, who lives in self-imposed exile in Spain, has called for a “million-man march” and a “people’s revolution” to topple el-Sisi.
El-Sisi, who came to power after leading the military overthrow of then-President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, has rejected Ali’s allegations. He has overseen a broad crackdown on dissent that has extended to liberal as well as Islamist groups and has effectively banned protests.
Morsi, the country’s first democratically-elected president, died in June. He had been in custody since he was deposed as the president.