UN urges Egyptian factions to engage in dialogue
Army reported to have targeted heads and torsos of Muslim Brotherhood supporters
Bodies lay in a makeshift morgue in the Nasr City neighbourhood of Cairo. Police initially fired tear gas to force pro-Morsi marchers to retreat early on Saturday but, when they replied by throwing stones and bricks, the police responded with birdshot and live rounds. Photograph: Narciso Contreras/The New York Times
Two Egyptians were killed and 28 wounded yesterday as UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon condemned violence against supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi after 80 people died in weekend clashes with uniformed and plain clothes police.
Mr Ban urged Egyptians “to address their differences through dialogue” and “engage in an inclusive and meaningful reconciliation process”.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton deeply deplored the deaths while US secretary of state John Kerry called on Egyptian leaders to “step back from the brink” and “respect the right of peaceful protest”.
Human rights watch accused the authorities of a “criminal disregard for people’s lives”. The deaths indicate “a shocking willingness by the police and by certain politicians to ratchet up violence against pro-Morsi protesters”, the organisation said.
Egypt’s Tamarod (Rebel) campaign warned the caretaker government against a return to the brutal security state apparatus dismantled after the 2011 uprising. Mahmoud Badr, spokesman of Tamarod, the organiser of Friday’s mass rallies backing the military’s efforts to tackle violence and terrorism, said: “Our campaign supports the state’s plans for fighting terrorism; however, we have previously stressed that this support does not include the taking of extraordinary measures, or the contradiction of freedoms and human rights.”
Mr Badr’s comments followed a declaration by interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim, a hold-over from Mr Morsi’s government, that, as a result of the latest deadly clashes, security departments fighting extremism and monitoring political and religious activity will be resurrected.
Mr Badr said the minister’s approach is “unacceptable” and contradict the principles of the revolution which had “freedom [as] one of its main goals”.
“We will never accept the return of Mubarak’s state security [apparatus] or the pursuit of political activists of any persuasion,” he said.
Liberal youth movement “April 6th” called for Mr Ibrahim’s resignation and interim vice-president Mohamed ElBaradei vowed “to urge all factions to denounce violence in all its forms [and] to reach a national consensus”.
Ultra-conservative al-Gamaa al-Islamiya described the events as “a hideous massacre against peaceful, unarmed protesters”.
Prosecutor Hesham Barakat opened an investigation of clashes that erupted early on Saturday when supporters left the Muslim Brotherhood’s Nasr City encampment in northern Cairo and attempted to block Nasr Avenue, a main thoroughfare near the parade ground where president Anwar Sadat was assassinated by a fundamentalist in 1981.
Others sought to march eight kilometres to the October 6th bridge that connects central Cairo with its populous western suburbs and is located near Tahrir Square, the site of anti-Morsi rallies.
Police initially fired tear gas to force pro-Morsi marchers to retreat but, when they replied by throwing stones and bricks, the police responded with birdshot and live rounds. Many of the dead and wounded, said to have been shot in the head and torso, were taken to a field hospital at the month-old Brotherhood camp at Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in Nasr City.
Since the July 3rd ouster of Mr Morsi, most of the 200 fatalities among his supporters have occurred when they leave encampments at the behest of their leaders to confront the police, army and members of the anti-Morsi camp. In spite of the violence, pro-Morsi activists vowed to maintain their vigils at Rabaa al-Adawiya and outside Cairo University. “No one’s going anywhere,” said Abdel-Rahman Daour. “We either have freedom or we die.”