Four killed and dozens injured in rival Egypt rallies
Hundreds of thousands turnout to show solidarity with new and old regimes
An Apache helicopter flies over Tahrir Square during a protest to support the army in Cairo tonight. Photograph: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters.
Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets in rival mass rallies tonight, hours after the state news agency said ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was being investigated for charges including murder.
In Cairo, huge crowds heeded a call by army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to give him a popular mandate to confront violence unleashed by his July 3rd overthrow of Mr Morsi, many of them clutching pictures of the general in full ceremonial uniform.
Supporters of the deposed Islamist leader staged mass counter-demonstrations to demand his reinstatement, shrugging off fears of an imminent crackdown.
The army’s move against Egypt’s first democratically elected president has caused deep alarm in the West. The country of 84 million people forms a bridge between the Middle East and North Africa and receives $1.5 billion a year in mainly military aid from the United States.
Highlighting the potential for bloodshed, hospital officials said four people were killed in clashes in Egypt’s second city Alexandria - three stabbed and one shot in the head. More than 50 were wounded.
Reuters reported that hundreds of people had fought a pitched battle in the city, with birdshot fired and men on rooftops hurling stones down at the crowds below. Seven protesters were also reported hurt in the Nile delta city of Damietta.
The capital was largely peaceful, but numbers were expected to peak in the later tonight, when clashes have broken out previously. Close to 200 people have died in violence in the three weeks since the army deposed the president.
The army has made clear it sees today as a turning point in its confrontation with Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which emerged from decades in the shadows to win successive elections after Egypt’s 2011 Arab Spring uprising against veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak. It lasted a year in government, during which the economy floundered and Mr Morsi’s popularity slumped.
“The Brothers stole our revolution,” said Salah Saleh, a horse trainer at a central Cairo rally, voicing widespread criticism that Mr Morsi refused to share out power after taking office, and then failed to tackle Egypt’s many woes.
“They came and sat on the throne and controlled everything.”
Many thousands of men, women and children joined Brotherhood supporters at their round-the-clock vigil in northeast Cairo, which is close to army installations but far from Tahrir Square, focal point for the pro-army rally. “It is either victory over the coup or martyrdom,” said senior Brotherhood politician Mohamed El-Beltagy told the pro-Morsi rally.
The probe against Mr Morsi centres on charges he conspired with Palestinian Islamist group Hamas to flee jail during the 2011 uprising against Mubarak, killing some prisoners and officers, kidnapping soldiers and torching buildings.
Mr Morsi has previously said locals helped him escape from prison during the upheavals, and the Muslim Brotherhood denounced the series of accusations levelled against him. Hamas challenged investigators to find “one piece of evidence” that it had meddled in Egyptian affairs.
“At the end of the day, we know all of these charges are nothing more than the fantasy of a few army generals and a military dictatorship,” Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad said. “We are continuing our protests on the streets.”