Violence flares in Egypt before weekend protests

CAIRO – Tens of thousands of supporters and opponents of President Mohammed Morsi rallied Friday in Cairo, and both sides fought each other in the second-largest city of Alexandria, where two people were killed – including an American – and 85 were injured while at least five offices of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood were torched, officials said.

The competing camps were trying to show their strength before even bigger nationwide protests planned by the opposition Sunday – the first anniversary of Morsi’s inauguration – aimed at forcing his removal.

The opposition says it will bring millions into the streets across Egypt, and more violence is feared. Already, six people have been killed in clashes this week, including Friday’s deaths.

The Cairo International Airport was flooded with departing passengers, an exodus that officials said was unprecedented. All flights departing Friday to Europe, the U.S. and the Gulf were fully booked, they said.

Many of those leaving were families of Egyptian officials and businessmen and those of foreign and Arab League diplomats – as well as many Egyptian Christians, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.

The U.S. State Department warned Americans against all but essential travel to Egypt, citing the uncertain security situation. It also said it would allow some nonessential staff and the families of personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo to leave until conditions improve.