Four killed as hundreds of thousands of protesters demand Morsi stands down

President’s palace sealed off as his government calls for talks on crisis

At least one supporter of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi was shot dead and 37 people injured in fighting in the town of Beni Suef, south of Cairo, and dozens suffered gunshot wounds during an attack on a Muslim Brotherhood office in Housh Eissa, in the northern Nile Delta.

The incidents happened on a day of mass protests as up to two million Egyptians poured into Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, the surrounding streets, and the area around Ittihadiya palace in the Heliopolis district to call for Morsi to stand down as he marked the first anniversary of his inauguration.

The US, regarded widely as backing Mr Morsi, was condemned by an opposition banner which read, "America supports killers of the Egyptian people."

Barbed wire

The presidential palace, where Mr Morsi has his offices, has been completely sealed off by makeshift walls and barbed wire to prevent the protesters from entering its grounds. As military helicopters flew overhead the crowd cheered and chanted: “The army and the people are one hand,” a slogan adopted during the 2011 uprising that toppled 30-year president Hosni Mubarak. Many opponents want the military to oust Mr Morsi as it removed Mr Mubarak – with a coup.

At the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in Nasr City, tens of thousands of Mr Morsi’s supporters from the Muslim Brotherhood and 16 allies, largely ultraconservative Salafi groups demanded that he, the country’s first democratically elected president, should serve out his term.

The presidency urged all political factions to commit to orderly protests and, once again, called for dialogue to resolve the crisis.

While the demonstrations in the capital were cheerful and peaceful, there were both provocations and scuffles in provincial towns and cities.

To the north, at the flashpoint city of Mansoura, in the Nile Delta, thousands of protesters chanted, "Go, go, you're two- faced; you've divided the people in two."

Clear demand

At Tanta, also in the Delta, clashes erupted when anti-Morsi demonstrators marched to a Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, with half a dozen injuries reported.

At least three government backers and a US citizen have been killed in clashes since last Wednesday.

Ahmed Maher, founder of the April 6th movement which helped launch the uprising, said: “These are the biggest protests in Egypt since January 28th, 2011, and the spirit is the same.

“The big difference between now and then is that when we first went out ... in 2011, we did not start by calling for the toppling of the president but now we have a clear demand: we want the president to leave.”

The main opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, issued a “revolutionary statement” which said the protests have endorsed “the ouster of the regime of Mohamed Morsi.

“The Egyptian population continue their revolution and will impose their will, which has become unequivocally clear in all Egypt’s squares.”

The opposition campaign to collect signatures on a petition calling for Mr Morsi’s removal claimed it had collected 22 million signatures while the pro-Morsi effort said it had secured 26 million.