Seventeen killed in Egypt clashes on ‘Friday of rage’

Thousands demonstrate against removal of Muslim Brotherhood president Morsi

Fri, Jul 5, 2013, 22:00

Seventeen people were killed in violence in Egypt today as supporters of deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi protested his overthrow by the army, state television said, quoting Health Ministry data. It gave no details.

A Health Ministry official earlier said six people had been killed in clashes around the country involving opponents and backers of ousted president Mohamed Morsi, as well as security forces.

Khaled el-Khatib said four people have been killed in Cairo and two elsewhere, with 180 wounded.

Security forces had shot dead at least three supporters of the deposed president today as a crowd of hundreds tried to march towards the military barracks in Cairo where he is being held by the military that overthrew him.

Thousands of Morsi supporters demonstrated in cities across the country on what his Muslim Brotherhood called a “Friday of rage” against what they describe as a military coup that toppled Egypt’s first elected leader a year after he took office.

A witness told Reuters he saw several people fall to the ground, wounded by shotgun pellets. Security sources told Reuters at least three demonstrators were killed when security forces opened fire.

Thousands of Islamists also took to the streets of Alexandria and Assiut to protest against the army’s overthrow of Mr Morsi and reject a planned interim government backed by their liberal opponents.

In the Suez city of Ismailia, soldiers fired into the air as Morsi supporters tried to break into the governor’s office. The Islamists retreated and there were no casualties, security sources said.

Egypt’s liberal coalition issued an “urgent call” for its supporters to take to the streets in response to Islamist protests, raising the risk of clashes between the rival groups.

In Damanhour, capital of the Beheira province in the Nile Delta, 21 people were wounded in violence between the factions.

Ehab el-Ghoneimy, manager of the Damanhour general hospital, said three people had been wounded with live bullets, while others were injured by birdshot, rocks, or they had been hit with rods.

Hoda Ghaneya, a leading female figure in the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) political arm, said she and two of her sons accompanying her at a Cairo rally after Friday prayers were ready to sacrifice themselves to the cause.

“We will die not as a sacrifice for Morsi, but so the Egyptian people recover their freedom,” she told Reuters near the Rabaa Adaweya mosque in a Cairo suburb that has been the centre of Islamist protests in the last few days.

Dozens of people were wounded in clashes in Morsi’s Nile Delta home city on Thursday, raising fears of more of the violence in which several dozen have died in the past month.

In the Sinai Peninsula near Israel, gunmen fired rocket-propelled grenades at army checkpoints guarding an airport and rocketed a police station near the border with the Palestinian territories. One soldier was killed and two wounded, a security source said.

An army spokesman said the army in the Sinai Peninsula was “on alert”. He denied an earlier report by state-owned media Al-Ahram that a state of emergency had been imposed in the South Sinai and Suez provinces, which had caused a spike in oil prices from international markets on edge over the unrest.

Future support

How the army deals with any unrest today and beyond will help determine future support for Cairo from the US and other international powers.

Concern that the generals have staged a military coup against Mr Morsi has left Washington reviewing the $1.5 billion (€1.17 billion) in mostly military aid it annually gives Egypt.

US law bars aid for countries where the military has toppled an elected government in a coup. Washington has so far avoided using that label.

In the skies above the teeming city, the airforce staged fly-pasts, with jets leaving red, white and black smoke streams - representing the Egyptian flag - behind them in a show of force the military has employed frequently since Mr Morsi’s removal.

A military source said: “We will continue to secure the places of protest with troops, and jets if necessary, to make sure the pro- and anti-Mursi demonstrators don’t confront each other. We will let them demonstrate and go where they want.”

Mr Morsi’s political opponents insist there was no coup.

Rather, the army heeded the “will of the people” in forcing the president out.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said earlier today she was concerned by reports of the detention of leading members of Egypt‘s Muslim Brotherhood, but stopped short of saying whether their overthrow this week constituted a coup d’etat.

“I hope that the rule of law and a system of government that respects the human rights of all Egyptians - men and women - can be quickly re-established,” she said in a statement.

Her spokesman Rupert Colville told a regular UN briefing that specific crimes would need to have been committed to justify the detentions of the Muslim Brotherhood’s leaders.

“We don‘t really know the details and what the basis of these detentions is. Obviously if you detain or arrest someone there needs to be, according to the law, a very good reason to do so,” he said. “There needs to be due process.”

Asked if Egypt’s new rulers should make clear why the figures were being detained or release them, he said: “I think that‘s a perfectly reasonable interpretation.”

Frequent criticism

Ms Pillay said Egypt should seize the chance to become a fully functioning and prosperous democracy, but did not condemn Egypt’s military for overthrowing President Mohamed Morsi, whose policies she had frequently criticised.

“As you know, globally there’s a huge debate going on about whether this was a coup or not a coup or what it is exactly. We’re not getting into that,” Colville said.

With a senior judge newly sworn in as interim president to replace Mr Morsi, the crackdown poses an immediate test to the new army-backed leadership’s promises to guide Egypt to democracy — how to include the 83-year-old fundamentalist group.

Hosni Mubarak and previous authoritarian regimes had banned the group and after his fall, the newly-legalised Brotherhood shot to power in elections, with veteran member Mr Morsi becoming the country’s first freely-elected president.

Now the group is reeling under a huge backlash from a public that says the Brotherhood and its Islamist allies abused their electoral mandate. The military forced Mr Morsi out on Wednesday after millions of Egyptians turned out in four days of protests demanding he be removed.

Adly Mansour, head of the Supreme Constititonal Court, with which Mr Morsi had repeated confrontations, was sworn in as interim president.

In his inaugural speech, broadcast nationwide, he said the anti-Morsi protests that began June 30th had “corrected the path of the glorious revolution of January 25”, referring to the 2011 uprising that toppled Mr Mubarak. He also praised the army, police, media and judiciary for standing against the Brotherhood.

Furious over what it calls a military coup against democracy, the Brotherhood said it would not work with the new leadership. It and harder-line Islamist allies called for a wave of protests today, dubbing it the “Friday of Rage” and vowing to escalate if the military did not back down.

Agencies