Police deployed across Cairo capital ahead of protests

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Cairo—Thousands of police were deployed Monday across the Egyptian capital in anticipation of demonstrations to protest the government’s decision to surrender control of two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.
Riot police backed by armored vehicles took up positions at Cairo’s Tahrir square, the epicenter of Egypt’s 2011 uprising, as well as on the city’s ring road, downtown and at a suburban square where at least 600 Muslim Brotherhood supporters were killed when security forces broke up their sit-in on Aug. 14, 2013.
Monday’s planned demonstrations would be the second wave of protests this month against the decision to give up control of the islands at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba. On April 15, about 2,000 demonstrators protested in downtown Cairo over the islands.
That protest was the largest against President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi since he assumed office in 2014, nearly a year after leading the military ouster of the Islamist Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected leader. Chants of “leave,” and “the people want to bring down the regime” rang out in the downtown area on that day, harkening back to the 2011 uprising that forced autocrat Hosni Mubarak to step down after nearly 30 years in power.
Authorities have detained dozens of activists in recent days, with the arrests continuing until just hours before the planned demonstrations. Freedom for the Brave, an activist group, says nearly 100 people have been arrested since the latest round of detentions began last week.
Egypt says the islands of Tiran and Sanafir, off the southern coast of the Sinai Peninsula, belong to Saudi Arabia, which placed them under Cairo’s protection in 1950 because it feared Israel might attack them. The government says officials and experts have for years negotiated with their Saudi counterparts the demarcation of the two countries’ sea borders and at the end agreed that the islands are inside Saudi Arabia’s territorial waters.
April 25 is a national holiday in Egypt marking the completion of Israel’s pullout from Sinai, which it captured in the 1967 Middle East war. The Interior Ministry says the deployment of police is designed to protect “peaceful” citizens who wish to celebrate.—Agencies

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