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At least 34 dead in Egyptian violence

Supporters and opponents of Egypt's ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi clash in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday. Rival crowds of supporters of Egypt's military and backers of the Islamist president deposed by the army poured into streets around the country Sunday, as a holiday marking the anniversary of the last war with Israel turned into a showdown between the country's two camps. AP Photo

Supporters and opponents of Egypt's ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi clash in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday. Rival crowds of supporters of Egypt's military and backers of the Islamist president deposed by the army poured into streets around the country Sunday, as a holiday marking the anniversary of the last war with Israel turned into a showdown between the country's two camps. AP Photo

CAIRO — Egyptian security forces on Sunday openly beat demonstrators sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood in central Cairo, without any apparent provocation, in a sign of how the once-powerful group has become the target of official suppression.

Hours later, the Health Ministry reported that at least 34 people had been killed and 209 people injured when police clashed with Brotherhood demonstrators in the city’s Garden City and in the Dokki district of nearby Giza.

The police reaction to the Brotherhood march stood in stark contrast to the scene blocks away, where pro-military crowds, summoned to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the start of Egypt’s 1973 war with Israel, cheered the military and hoisted soldiers and police on their shoulders.

The difference was apparent to two McClatchy reporters who left the pro-military demonstration to cover a Brotherhood gathering. As they witnessed police beatings, the two reporters were pounced on by security officers, who struck one on the neck with a night stick, stole their cell phones and camera, and threatened to haul one away.

The abuse ended only after the reporters proved they’d been at the pro-military rally by producing a poster of Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi, the military head who engineered the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi in July.

The military-backed government had warned in a statement from Ahmed El-Mosalamani, the presidential spokesman, that anyone protesting against the military on Sunday would be considered an “agent” conspiring against the Egypt.

Interim President Adly Mansour, who was named to his post by el-Sissi, had urged Egyptians in a televised speech Saturday to “support their military” by turning out for the anniversary commemorations.

Previously, Egyptian security forces have said the Brotherhood, the secretive organization through which Morsi ascended to office, instigated clashes, some of which left hundreds dead.

But on Sunday, there was no sign of Brotherhood provocation. The beatings took place well away from the huge crowds that were celebrating the military. The interior ministry later claimed that at least 200 pro-Morsi supporters were arrested in their attempt to “storm Egyptian public squares.”

Residents nearby also played a role, refusing to give Brotherhood sympathizers shelter as they sought to flee the security forces’ onslaught.

McClatchy reporters witnessed police officers throwing rocks at the protesters. Some protesters jumped into the Nile River to take refuge.

A police officer struck a male McClatchy reporter in the back of his neck and stole his phone from his pocket. He then stole the phone and camera of a second correspondent.

The beatings apparently had the approval of higher-ups. Near Tahrir Square, two officers appeared with broken night sticks. Their commander asked what happened.

“We beat Brotherhood,” the officers responded.

There was no gunfire while the McClatchy reporters were present. But that was untrue later, when police fired tear gas to break up Brotherhood marches, then opened fire with live ammunition.

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