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Friday
Jul262013

Protesters Flood Cairo in Competing Rallies 

ABC News(CAIRO) -- As the sun set in Cairo Friday evening, it would seem that Egyptian Army Chief Abdul-Fattah al-Sissi got his mandate. Earlier this week, Sissi called for the Egyptian people to hit the streets to "fight terrorism" and Tahrir Square is more full on Friday night than it's been since Morsi's ouster.

The atmospheres at the pro-Morsi and pro-military rallies were starkly different. At the pro-Morsi stronghold Raba'a Al Adaweya, it has been said over and over that Friday night was going to bring an epic showdown, a series of dangerous confrontations. One man angrily telling ABC News, "Tonight is the night to end this... Sissi will be finished for good."

But several miles away in Tahrir Square and near the presidential palace, the pro-military rallies were festive, excited. Military helicopters flew over both the pro-Morsi and the pro-military rallies -- at the latter, showering the crowd with Egyptian flags and confetti.  Among the pro-military crowd, there was no sense that the night was headed for a dark ending as patriotic music blasted from speakers. ABC News' Molly Hunter spoke with Coptic Christians, Muslims and secular Egyptians alike who all declared their united support for the military-backed government and their shared hatred for everything the MB stands for.

"The people, the source of all power, mandate the army and police to purge terrorism," reads a banner stretched across the entrance to Tahrir. Police officers posed for pictures with protesters, shot celebratory gunfire -- all in a rather relaxed manner.  

That may change now that the sun has gone down. Due to the high numbers on both sides, Friday's rallies have the potential to drag out this cycle or seriously raise the stakes.

In Cairo, a lot of the Egyptian TV stations have suspended their normal Ramadan entertainment programming to cover the protests. No deaths have been reported in the capital, but there were five in Alexandria, according to state media.

 

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio