Thousands of Egyptians protesting against military rule gathered in several cities on Friday night, despite tight security.

Anti-coup protesters defied the curfew in Helwan, Minya and Nasr City, following peaceful protests in the capital Cairo.

Supporters of the country's deposed President Mohammed Morsi, who once overwhelmed cities in the hundreds of thousands, changed tactics by demonstrating in small rallies that avoided confronting a heavy military deployment waiting for them across the country.

Security and military forces deployed around Cairo, closing off traffic in some major thoroughfares and in the city centre.

In the southern Maadi district, several thousand protesters marched from the Al-Rayan Mosque to Arab Square. They chanted "coup, coup" and "down with military rule".

Live Box 201372283337894564

A mass protest was called for but fewer than expected turned out.

The rallies were seen as a test of whether Morsi supporters can keep up their pressure despite an intensive security crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, from which he hails.

Al Jazeera's Bernard Smith, reporting from Cairo, said photos of Morsi were almost absent at Friday's protests.

"When we spoke to the protesters they said this was a deliberate attempt to widen support among Egyptians for the protest movement. A lot of people say this was not just about Morsi but about a coup and a fear that any democratic advances in Egypt would be taken away by the military," he said.

Security forces had clearly announced that mass gatherings or sit-ins would be quickly dispersed.

Interior Ministry sources told Al Jazeera that fighting erupted in Tanta city of Gharbia governorate, between pro-Morsi protesters and local residents, when Morsi supporters put up pictures of the deposed president in Said street. One person was killed during the fighting, sources said.

The demonstrations came a day after deposed autocrat Hosni Mubarak was released from prison and placed under house arrest in a military hospital in southern Cairo, adding to tensions.

They are also the first since the Brotherhood spiritual leader Mohamed Badie was arrested and accused of instigating violence. Nearly 80 Brotherhood members, including senior leaders and spokesmen, were arrested on the eve of the Friday rallies.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies