CAIRO — Officially sanctioned rallies to mark Saturday's third anniversary of Egypt's democratic uprising brought choreographed displays of nationalism, while security forces meted out punishment to Islamist and secular opponents of the military-backed government. By day's end, at least 29 people died, by the authorities' count, with hundreds more arrested and scores injured.
Police dispersed separate demonstrations staged by backers of deposed President Mohammed Morsi and by secularists who had helped drive the 2011 revolution against Hosni Mubarak. Breaking up gatherings in Cairo and elsewhere, police wielded tear gas, birdshot, fists and clubs, and in some cases, lethal force. Vigilantes joined in the attacks on protesters.
A day after four explosions jolted the capital city, killing six people, many were anxious about going out into the streets, and early crowds were thin in Cairo and elsewhere.
But crowds swelled as the day went on, and grew enormous at nightfall.
One small early-morning explosion went off near a police training center in Cairo, but caused no serious injuries or damage. A militant group that until recently has been active mainly in the Sinai peninsula — Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, or the Champions of Jerusalem — claimed responsibility for the Cairo attacks on Friday.
In tightly guarded Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the anti-Mubarak uprising, the anniversary brought elaborate shows of adulation for Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the army chief who is being urged by many to run for president. He led the popularly supported coup that deposed Morsi in July.
Euphoric demonstrators in the square donned el-Sissi masks and waved el-Sissi banners while helicopters roared overhead.
Many attending the Tahrir celebrations saw the anniversary as a chance to vent renewed anger at the autocratic Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood and express support for the interim government, which has promised to hold presidential and parliamentary elections this year.