Update: MOI insists security forces had no role in January 25 deaths

The death toll resulting from Sunday’s clashes on the fourth anniversary of the January 25 revolution had risen to 23 by Monday afternoon, the Ministry of Health announced, while the Ministry of Interior continues to distance itself from acts of violence perpetrated against protesters.

At least 97 were reported injured, including 19 security personnel.

Most of the casualties occurred in Cairo, specifically in the northern district of Matareya, where violent clashes took place. Other casualties were reported in Haram and Alexandria.

In line with the narrative of the last two years, state media and government institutions were quick to point fingers at the Muslim Brotherhood for disturbing the peace and tainting the January 25 anniversary.

In a press conference Monday, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said that security forces had foiled the Brotherhood’s plans to mar the anniversary celebrations.

Brotherhood members fired the shots that claimed so many lives on Sunday, Ibrahim claimed. He insisted that the security forces had received orders to deal with the situation cautiously and protect citizens.

Security forces do not carry weapons at peaceful protests, except for tear gas canisters, the minister added.

Ibrahim also expressed his gratitude to citizens who confronted “the terrorists” themselves and handed them over to the police.

He said that 516 Brotherhood supporters were arrested on Sunday.

Ibrahim also expressed his condolences to the family of Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, the activist who was shot dead in a peaceful protest on Saturday.

If investigations showed that a member of the security forces was behind Sabbagh’s death, “I will send him to court myself,” Ibrahim declared.

The minister said that he respects the investigations into the incident and that he has been cooperative with the prosecution.

He reiterated that while there might be “infringements” on protesters’ rights committed by some police forces, these cases don’t reflect on the ministry as a whole, and should dealt with as isolated incidents.

“Don’t jump to conclusions and throw accusations at the security apparatus that protects national security,” he argued.

The Health Ministry said three of those who died were “terrorists,” killed by an explosive device they were attempting to plant in Beheira. A similar case was also reported in Damietta.

The Forensics Authority said two of Sunday’s victims from Matareya were Copts, according to the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper.

The front pages of Monday’s state-owned newspapers boasted that “terrorist” plots to create havoc on the anniversary of the revolution had failed.

Al-Ahram said people had ignored calls by the Muslim Brotherhood to stage protests across the country, and that most areas were calm, except those in which “Muslim Brotherhood supporters tried to spread chaos and terror.”

The state-owned newspaper Al-Akhbar lauded security forces’ efforts to “foil attempts by the traitors to taint the anniversary of the revolution,” alleging that 15 of those killed were members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Al-Akhbar claimed Tahrir Square was closed off in mourning for the death of Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, and that crowds heading to the square were turned away by the police for their own safety.

The government had declared that celebrations for Police Day and the fourth anniversary of the January 25, 2011 revolution on Sunday would be canceled following the death of the Saudi king.

Al-Akhbar maintained “infiltrators” showed up later on Sunday brandishing posters with the Rabea al-Adaweya icon, and were confronted by civilians who turned them over to the police as they idly stood by.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) called for an independent investigation into claims that security personnel used excessive force on January 25 and in the days leading up to the anniversary.

In a statement issued Monday, HRW condemned the killing of protesters, specifically mentioning Sondos Reda Abu Bakr and Shaimaa al-Sabbagh. The human rights organization claimed there is clear evidence that security forces confronted a small, peaceful protest with excessive force that led to Sabbagh’s death.

Abu Bakr and Sabbagh were killed on January 23 and 24, respectively.

“Four years after Egypt’s revolution, police are still killing protesters on a regular basis,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East and North Africa director.

“While President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was at Davos burnishing his international image, his security forces were routinely using violence against Egyptians participating in peaceful demonstrations,” she argued.

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