Masked men seen shooting protesters
Political arm of Muslim Brotherhood insists it will continue to mobilise people protests
A member of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporter of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi wears a makeshift gas mask as others run away from shooting during clashes in front of Azbkya police station during clashes at Ramses Square in Cairo yesterday. Photograph: Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
Dozens were killed yesterday in clashes as thousands of Egyptians rallied in Cairo, Alexandria, the Nile Delta cities and in the south. They were protesting against the violent dispersal of Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins on Wednesday and the continuing detention of ousted president Mohamed Morsi whose reinstatement is being demanded by his supporters.
In spite of the carnage, the Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, is determined the movement “will continue to mobilise people to take to the streets without resorting to violence and without vandalism.”
As pro-Morsi protesters marched to Ramses Square – a large open market place near the train station – helicopters circled overhead and heavy gunfire rang out when residents tried to prevent the marchers from gathering.
Masked men in plain clothes were photographed shooting into the throng in the square from the October 6th overpass. At least 41 were killed, say pro-Morsi activists. Images of bodies lying on the floor of a nearby mosque were broadcast by satellite television channels.
Armoured personnel carriers and tanks sealed the entrances to Tahrir Square, the cradle of the 2011 uprising and the protest site of anti-Morsi activists.
Ahead of the Brotherhood’s “day of rage”, the security forces guarding key government buildings and strategic sites were ordered to use live ammunition if they were attacked.
The Brotherhood insists its protests have been peaceful and have blamed what it terms “the military coup” that ousted Mr Morsi on July 3rd for the “murder of thousands” during the operation to clear sit-ins at Cairo’s Nasr City district and Giza. The Brotherhood accuses the security forces of burning pro-Morsi protesters alive and “killing the injured” as well as burning corpses and mosques.
The security forces claim the Brotherhood burned the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, the makeshift hospital located there and the bodies theirin. They are also being blamed for orchestrating sectarian attacks on churches as well as assaults on police and public buildings across the country.
The health ministry put Wednesday’s death toll at 638 and the number of injured at 3,994, while the Brotherhood says 2,600 have been killed. It bases its estimate on bodies that were received at field hospitals when they were not not admitted to government-supervised morgues.
A dozen Egyptian human rights organisations have condemned the disproportionate use of force by the security forces against the sit-ins. However, they have also accused the Brotherhood of seeking to start a “civil war” by launching retaliatory attacks against public facilities, churches, Christian homes and businesses.
“That some participants in the sit-in, and its leaders committed criminal acts, were in possession of weapons and engaged in violence does not give the security authorities a licence to . . . use excessive force when dispersing the sit-in,” said the organisations. They also criticised the government’s handling of the crisis as an “utter failure.”
The group urged the government to contain the violence and return to the political process and told the Brotherhood to cease incitement and violence and “return to peaceful politics” .
The Tamarod (Rebel) youth campaign which organised the massive June 30th protests that led to the ousting of Mr Morsi has called upon supporters to guard churches and government buildings and urged the public to boycott 51 shops, firms and factories owned by the Brotherhood. Tamarod published a list of these enterprises.
While a number of countries have warned their citizens not to travel to Egypt or confine themselves to hotels and resorts, Scandinavian tour agencies have decided to evacuate all Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish tourists from Egypt. France is reviewing contingency plans for evacuating its nationals. Moscow has told travel agents to stop sales of holiday packages to the country.