Egyptian authorities have arrested hundreds of people in their effort to clamp down on a spate of small but exceptionally rare protests across the country, a global watchdog and human rights lawyers said Friday. Riot police forcibly dispersed the limited demonstrations over economic grievances that erupted across several impoverished, rural villages over the past few weeks, firing tear gas and birdshot, per a new report from Amnesty International. The group said it verified videos showing officers with rifles out in force, in two cases beating unarmed protests with batons and firing birdshot at those running away, per the AP. Two men were killed in the crackdown, the group said, one hit with birdshot by security forces south of Cairo and another during a police raid in Luxor. Nearly 500 remain in custody pending investigations into murky terrorism-related charges, a common tool used by state prosecutors to silence critics and quash dissent, according to estimates from lawyers.
In an unusual show of defiance, small groups of Egyptians dared to join street demonstrations on the anniversary of short-lived protests against the authoritarian rule of Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi that flared last year. "The fact that these protesters took to the streets while knowing the very high risk to their lives and safety they were taking shows how desperate they were to demand their economic and social rights," said Philip Luther, Amnesty's regional research and advocacy director. A government media officer didn't respond to requests for comment about the allegations. The Interior Ministry has not publicly acknowledged making arrests in response to demonstrations. State-owned media, meanwhile, insists the situation is under control.
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