CAIRO - Egyptian troops and police had taken relatively low-key security measures before the "Friday of Martyrs" processions that were to have begun from 28 mosques in the capital after weekly prayers.
Mass protests called by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood mostly failed to
materialize on Friday as the movement reels from a bloody army crackdown
on followers of ousted President Mohamed Morsi.
But midday prayers were cancelled at some mosques and few major protests unfolded in Cairo, although witnesses said at least 1,000 people staged a march in the Mohandiseen district.
There were no reports of violence in that procession, but the Brotherhood's website said one person had been killed in the Nile Delta town of Tanta in clashes with security forces.
Brotherhood supporters also turned out in Alexandria, several Delta towns, the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, the north Sinai town of Rafah, and Assiut in the south, with minor skirmishes reported in some places.
"We are not afraid; it's victory or death," said Mohamed Abdel Azim, a retired oil engineer who was among about 100 people marching slowly from a mosque near Cairo University.
"They intend to strike at Muslims," the grey-bearded Azim said. "We'd rather die in dignity than live in oppression. We'll keep coming out until there's no one left."
Despite his defiant words, the mood of the protesters seemed subdued, perhaps a sign that the crackdown and the round-up of Brotherhood leaders has chilled the rank-and-file.
Some marchers carried posters of Morsi, who was toppled by army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on July 3 after huge demonstrations against his rule.
"No to the coup," they chanted.
"GOD WILL BRING DOWN SISI"
At another small protest in Cairo, a veiled nursery teacher with four children, who gave her name as Nasra, said: "God will make us victorious, even if many of us are hurt and even if it takes a long time. God willing, God will bring down Sisi."
Egypt has endured the bloodiest civil unrest in its modern history since Aug. 14 when police destroyed protest camps set up by Morsi's supporters in Cairo to demand his reinstatement.
The violence has alarmed Egypt's Western allies, but US President Barack Obama acknowledged that even a decision to cut off US aid to Cairo might not influence its military rulers.
But he said Washington was re-evaluating its ties with Egypt. "There's no doubt that we can't return to business as usual, given what's happened," he told CNN in an interview.
Some U.S. lawmakers have called for a halt to the $1.5 billion a year in mostly military assistance to Egypt to bolster its 1979 peace treaty with Israel in 1979. Military cooperation includes privileged US access to the Suez Canal.
The Brotherhood, hounded by Egypt's new army-backed rulers, had called for demonstrations across the country against the crackdown, testing the resilience of its battered support base.
Security forces kept a watchful eye, but did not flood the streets, even near Cairo's central Fateh mosque, where gun battles killed scores of people last Friday and Saturday.
The mosque's metal gates and big front door were locked and chained. Prayers were cancelled. Two armored vehicles were parked down the street, where people shopped at a busy market.
Only one riot police truck stood by near Rabaa al-Adawiya square in northeastern Cairo, home to the Brotherhood's biggest protest vigil until police and troops stormed in, killing hundreds of p