Muslim Brotherhood protest marches took place across Egypt yesterday after armed forces commander Gen Abdul Fattah el-Sisi warned that troops would respond forcibly to violence. He made it clear that the army, which has been held in reserve, could be deployed alongside civilian police and security personnel engaged in the crackdown.
“Whoever imagines violence will make the state and Egyptians kneel must reconsider; we will never be silent in the face of the destruction of the country,” he said.
However, he also addressed supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi saying, in an attempt to reassure them, there is “room for everyone in Egypt” and that the armed forces had no intention of seizing power.
His remarks came as 38 Brotherhood supporters were killed in a police van en route to prison. The men were said to have been shot when they tried to take a police officer hostage.
Crowds demanding the reinstatement of the ousted president gathered in Helwan and Giza south of Cairo to march to the supreme court building in the Maadi suburb.
However, they were deterred from proceeding by armoured vehicles, police and local residents who had formed a cordon to protect the court against attack.
The Brotherhood cancelled its protest in Cairo’s Heliopolis suburb near Ittihadiya presidential palace because of reports that snipers had been positioned along the route.
On Saturday, security forces ended a siege at a mosque in Ramses square in Cairo where pro-Morsi activists sought sanctuary during clashes with police and civilians which resulted in deaths, including Ammar Badie, son of Brotherhood supreme guide Mohamed Badie.
Four Irish citizens were among those in the mosque and Irish diplomats in Cairo are trying to gain access to them.
The four siblings, Omaima, Fatima, Soumaya and Ibrahim Halawa, are believed to be in military detention in Cairo’s Tora prison. Their family has not been able to contact them directly since they were detained on Saturday.
On Saturday 79 people died and 549 were wounded countrywide, said state news agency Mena. That brought the death toll since Wednesday to 830, including 70 police and soldiers.
Meanwhile, president of the European council Herman Van Rompuy and commission chief José Manuel Barroso have said the EU will “review” relations with Egypt, suggesting that €3.75 billion in aid to promote democratic reform could be suspended.