Police attempt to stop anti-government protesters in Cairo. The Egyptian capital saw crowds chanting against President Hosni Mubarak and calling for an end to poverty as opposition politicians who did not win in recent parliamentary elections also joined the demonstrations. Image Credit: AP

Cairo: Egyptian authorities deployed thousands of anti-riot police across the capital as opposition activists staged a series of protests on what they termed as the Day of Rage.

Meanwhile, two protesters and a policeman died on Tuesday during demonstrations staged across Egypt demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, a security official and medics said, adds AFP

The protesters, Ahmed Soliman Gaber and Mustafa Ragab, died in the port city of Suez in clashes between police and demonstrators, medical officials told AFP.

A policeman, Ahmed Aziz, died from his wounds in Cairo, where thousands had gathered in central Cairo's Tahrir square, the security official said.

Earlier, several opposition politicians, who did not win in recent parliamentary elections, joined by hundreds of protest activists, gathered outside the Supreme Court building in central Cairo and the nearby Bar Association cordoned off by policemen. "No to poverty. No to high prices. No to corruption," they chanted. "No to the emergency law," they added, referring to a law that has been in force since 1981, giving police wider powers.

"I feel optimistic when I see all these Egyptians gathering to demand for change and genuine reforms," said Ayman Nour, an outspoken critic of Mubarak. "The regime should be worried that the patience of the Egyptians are running short," he told Gulf News as he joined other protesters outside the Supreme Court.

Public grievances

Though Tuesday was a public holiday marking the Police Day, scores of people, with grievances against the Government of President Hosni Mubarak, responded to the call for demonstrating on "the Day of Rage" propagated across the social networking website the Facebook. Organisers of the protests said they wanted to decry "police brutalities" and the Emergency Law.

Meanwhile, police closed the street where the parliament building is located in central Cairo and ordered cars to detour. Activists trying to move into the nearby Tahrir Square clashed with police when they tried to stop them. Police fired tear gas and used water cannons to disperse the protesters, according to eyewitnesses

Dozens of protesters were rounded up as others demonstrators were injured, they added. However, the official Middle East News Agency, quoting a security source, denied female protesters were detained.

Protesters from different areas of Cairo had originally planned to converge on Tahrir Square before moving on to the nearby headquarters of the Ministry of the Interior, said sources close to the organisers.

In the run-up to the protests, the Interior Ministry warned it would stand firmly against unlicensed demonstrations. "We have not received any requests for staging demonstrations. Therefore fore, we will be firm against any unlicensed protest," a senior security official was quoted as saying in Tuesday's newspapers.

Other protests were reported in other areas of Cairo, including Shubra, north of the capital, where some Islamists along with secularists pushed through a cordon imposed by police. "You Police Officers, We Are Not Terrorists. We Are your Brothers," chanted the protesters as police later allowed them to continue their protest.

Shops closed

Similar protests were reported in other Egyptian governorates, including the coastal cities of Alexandria, Damietta and Ismailia. There were no reports about clashes between police and the protesters.

Many owners of stores chose to close down their shops, especially in central Cairo, which is usually a rallying point for anti-government protesters.

"Today should be a quiet day because it is a public holiday. However, for safety sake, I would close my store because signs around are bad," Mahmoud Hassan said as he pointed to scores of police vehicles stopping in the nearby. "Some young protesters may defy the police and damage whatever their hands may reach," he told this newspaper.