Death toll after clash at Cairo military HQ rises to 51
Muslim Brotherhood urges Egyptians to rise up against the army
The death toll due to violence earlier today at the Cairo headquarters of the Republican Guard has risen to 51, the head of Egypt’s emergency services has said.
The number of wounded was 435, Mohamed Sultan said.
The military said “a terrorist group” had tried to storm the building.
The Muslim Brotherhood has said the army opened fire while some Islamist demonstrators were holding morning prayer outside the barracks where toppled President Mohamed Morsi was being held.
The Brotherhood has urged people to rise up against the army, which they accuse of a coup to topple the president. The movement’s leaders are calling for peaceful resistance, but the risk remains of fringe elements pursuing a violent agenda.
Earlier it was reported at least 42 people were killed today when Islamist demonstrators enraged by the military overthrow of Egypt’s elected president said the army opened fire at the Cairo barracks where he is being held.
The military said “a terrorist group” had tried to storm the Republican Guard compound and one army officer had been killed and 40 wounded.
Soldiers returned fire when they were attacked by armed assailants, a military source said.
The emergency services said more than 320 were wounded in a sharp escalation of Egypt’s political crisis, and Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood urged people to rise up against the army, which they accuse of a military coup to remove the elected leader.
At a hospital near the Rabaa Adawia mosque where Islamists have camped out since Mr Morsi was toppled on Wednesday, rooms were crammed with people wounded in the violence, sheets were stained with blood and medics were rushing to attend to the wounded.
As an immediate consequence, the ultra-conservative Islamist Nour party, which had initially backed the military intervention, said it was withdrawing from stalled negotiations to form an interim government for the transition to fresh elections. The military has said the overthrow was not a coup, and it was enforcing the will of the people after millions took to the streets on June 30th to call for his resignation.
The Brotherhood’s official spokesman, Gehad El-Haddad, who was at a pro-Morsi sit-in at a mosque near the scene, said shooting broke out in the early morning while Islamists were praying and staging a peaceful sit-in outside the barracks.
The events leave the Arab world’s largest nation of 84 million people in a perilous state, with the risk of further enmity between people on either side of the political divide while an economic crisis deepens.
Abdelaziz Abdelshakua, from Sharqia Province northeast of Cairo, was wounded in his right leg this morning with what he says was a live round. “We were praying the dawn prayer and we heard there was shooting,” he said. He said an army officer assured them no one was shooting, then suddenly they were under fire from the direction of the Republican Guard. “They shot us with teargas, birdshot, rubber bullets - everything. Then they used live bullets.”
Al Jazeera’s Egypt news channel broadcast footage of what appeared to be five men killed in the violence, and medics trying to revive a man at a makeshift clinic at a nearby pro-Morsi sit-in.
A Reuters journalist at the scene saw first aid helpers attempting mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on a dying man. Wounded people were being ferried to the field hospital on motorbikes, given first aid treatment and taken away in ambulances.
Talks on forming a new government were already in trouble before today’s shooting, after the Nour Party rejected two liberal-minded candidates for prime minister proposed by interim head of state Adli Mansour.
Mr Nour, head of Egypt’s second biggest Islamist party, whose support is vital to giving the new authorities a veneer of Islamist backing, said it had withdrawn from the negotiations in protest at what it called the massacre.
“The party decided the complete withdrawal from political participation in what is known as the road map,” the party said.
The military can ill afford a lengthy political vacuum at a time of violent upheaval and economic stagnation.
Scenes of running street battles between pro- and anti-Morsi demonstrators in Cairo, Alexandria and cities across the country have alarmed Egypt’s allies, including key aid donors the United States and Europe, and Israel, with which Egypt has had a US-backed peace treaty since 1979. Huge crowds numbering hundreds of thousands gathered in different parts of Cairo again yesterday were peaceful, but nonetheless a reminder of the risks of further instability.
For many Islamists, the overthrow of Egypt’s first freely elected president was a bitter reversal that raised fears of a return to the suppression they endured for decades under autocratic rulers like Mr Mubarak.
On the other side of the political divide, millions of Egyptians were happy to see the back of a leader they believed was orchestrating a creeping Islamist takeover of the state - a charge the Brotherhood has vehemently denied.
Washington has not condemned the military takeover or called it a coup, prompting suspicion within the Brotherhood that it tacitly supports the overthrow. President Barack Obama has ordered a review to determine whether annual US assistance of $1.5 billion (€1.17 billion), most of which goes to the Egyptian military, should be cut off as required by law if a country’s military ousts a democratically elected leader.
Egypt can ill afford to lose foreign aid. The country appears headed for a looming funding crunch unless it can quickly access money from overseas. The local currency has lost 11 per cent of its value since late last year.