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Egypt: violence marks anniversary of Morsi ouster

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Photo - An Egyptian walks past old presidential campaign posters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, July 3, 2014. Morsi's supporters had called for mass protests Thursday to mark the anniversary, which were likely to be met with a harsh response from the security forces. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
An Egyptian walks past old presidential campaign posters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, July 3, 2014. Morsi's supporters had called for mass protests Thursday to mark the anniversary, which were likely to be met with a harsh response from the security forces. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
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CAIRO (AP) — A series of demonstrations and small bombings marked the anniversary on Thursday of the ouster of Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi, and authorities responded by arresting nearly 200 people as part of their crackdown against Islamists.

One of the bombs went off accidentally inside an apartment outside Cairo, killing two suspected militants who were handling the explosives, the Interior Ministry said. It said the men were in the apartment with two friends who fled after the blast in the Islamist stronghold of Kirdasah.

A security official said one Morsi supporter was killed during clashes between protesters and security forces in Cairo's twin city Giza. Late Thursday, a homemade bomb went off on a train in Egypt's second city, Alexandria, injuring five passengers, another official said. The bomb was placed in a suitcase under a chair- in a rare incident of directly targeting civilians.

A policeman was killed following violent clashes with protesters in Helwan, a district south of Cairo. The official said protesters in the area lobbed a firebomb at a deserted police station, and the force responded, setting off a firefight, in which the policeman was killed and two officers were injured. There were no immediate reports of casualties on the protesters side.

Morsi's supporters had called for mass protests a year after he was toppled by the military and detained, but the number of demonstrators during the day was mostly in the hundreds, sometimes just dozens - evidence of the reluctance by Islamists to take on the security forces after a months-long crackdown that has killed hundreds and jailed at least 22,000.

Thursday's demonstrations took place in Cairo, Alexandria, Assiut, the oasis province of Fayoum southwest of the capital and several other provinces.

Protests continued after nightfall, with skirmishes reported in the city of Suez, the southern city of Aswan and on the outskirts of Cairo.

Despite relatively small numbers, the protesters blocked some roads, lobbed firebombs at police force, and chanted slogans against the military and President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the former military chief who ousted Morsi following mass protests demanding he step down. El-Sissi was later elected president.

In other violence reported by officials, three separate bombings damaged police stations but caused no casualties in Cairo's densely populated Imbaba district. A small bomb also went off near an air force hospital in Cairo late Wednesday, and bombs targeted a police station and a railway station in the southern city of Assiut, which has a large Islamist presence, on Thursday.

Two more explosive devices were defused on the main road leading to the famed Giza Pyramids and a stun grenade went off near a police station in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, causing panic.

No one was injured in those attacks.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

In a report marking the anniversary, Amnesty International said the year since Morsi's ouster has seen a "sharp deterioration" in human rights in Egypt, with a surge in arbitrary arrests, detentions and what it called "harrowing incidents of torture and deaths in police custody."

"On every level Egypt is failing in terms of human rights," the London-based group said. It added that it was up to el-Sissi as the newly elected president to "turn the tide by launching independent, impartial investigations into all allegations of human rights violations and send a strong message that flouting human rights will not be tolerated and will no longer go unpunished."

In a statement, the Interior Ministry said 157 demonstrators and 39 suspected Islamists on the Interior Ministry's most-wanted list had been arrested.

After Morsi's ouster, Islamic militants stepped up attacks against security forces in the rugged Sinai Peninsula, a campaign that later spread to the mainland. Militants bombed a central police compound in Cairo in January and tried to assassinate Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim, who is in charge of the police, last year.

The government has blamed the string of attacks on the Muslim Brotherhood from which Morsi hails, which is now officially branded a terrorist organization.

The Brotherhood- which has seen thousands of its members and virtually its entire top leadership arrested- has condemned the violence but vowed to continue holding demonstrations demanding the reinstatement of Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president.

In anticipation for the mass protests, security was tight around the capital, with main thoroughfares, including the epicenter of protests Tahrir Square, were closed to traffic.

Near Tahrir square, Cairo resident Qassem Shaaban said he expected the day to pass without any serious disturbance.

"Seriously, I feel like the Brotherhood has become extinct. They are no more," he said. "Today Egypt is celebrating."

There was little sign of festivities, particularly during the daytime when most Egyptians were fasting, observing the holy month of Ramadan. Egypt has been plunged into turmoil since the 2011 uprising that toppled long-ruling autocrat Hosni Mubarak, and many Egyptians see the crackdown, and the return of a military man to the nation's top post, as essential for restoring stability and repairing the shattered economy.

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