US warns against Egypt travel after three killed in clashes

Egypt’s leading religious authority has warned of ‘civil war’

Islamists, members of the brotherhood, and supporters of Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi shout slogans with brotherhood’s flag during a protest around the Raba El-Adwyia mosque square in the suburb of Nasr City, Cairo, last night. Photograph: Reuters

Islamists, members of the brotherhood, and supporters of Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi shout slogans with brotherhood’s flag during a protest around the Raba El-Adwyia mosque square in the suburb of Nasr City, Cairo, last night. Photograph: Reuters

 

Two people, one an American student, were killed when protesters stormed an office of Egypt’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood in Alexandria, adding to growing tension ahead of mass rallies aimed at unseating the Islamist president.

A third man was killed and 10 injured in an explosion during a protest in Port Said, at the mouth of the Suez Canal. Police today said the cause was unclear but protesters, believing it was a bomb, attacked an Islamist party office in the city.

Egypt’s leading religious authority warned of “civil war” after violence in the past week that had already left several dead and hundreds injured. They backed President Mohamed Morsi’s offer to talk to opposition groups ahead of tomorrow’s protests.

The UN, EU and US have appealed for restraint and urged Egypt’s deadlocked political leaders to step back from a confrontation threatening the new democracy that emerged from the Arab Spring revolution of 2011.

The US embassy said in a statement it was evacuating non-essential staff and family members and renewed a warning to Americans not to travel to Egypt unless they had to.

The Muslim Brotherhood said eight of its offices had been attacked last night, including the one in Alexandria. Officials said more than 70 people had been injured in the clashes in the city. One was shot dead and a young American man who was using a small camera died after being stabbed in the chest.

He was identified as Andrew Pochter, a 21-year-old student from Chevy Chase, Maryland who had been studying at Ohio’s Kenyon College. The college said he had been working as an intern for the US educational organisation AMIDEAST.

A Brotherhood member was also killed overnight in an attack on a party office at Zagazig, in the heavily populated Nile Delta, where much of the recent violence has been concentrated. Mursi’s movement said five supporters in all had died this week.

“Vigilance is required to ensure we do not slide into civil war,” said clerics at Cairo’s ancient Al-Azhar institute, one of the most influential centres of scholarship in the Muslim world.

In a statement broadly supportive of Mursi, they backed his offer of dialogue and blamed “criminal gangs” who besieged mosques for the violence. The Brotherhood warned of “dire consequences” and “a violent spiral of anarchy”.

It accused liberal leaders, including former U. diplomat Mohamed El Baradei, of personally inciting violence by hired “thugs” once loyal to ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak.

Opposition leaders condemned the violence. The army, which has warned it could intervene if political leaders lose control, issued a statement saying it had deployed across the country to protect citizens and installations of national importance.

In the capital, Cairo, tens of thousands turned out for rival events some miles apart and there was little trouble. An Islamist rally included calls to reconciliation. On Tahrir Square, cradle of the uprising against Mr Mubarak, there was a festive atmosphere and a determination to shake Mr Mursi tomorrow.

In Alexandria, as several thousand anti-Mursi protesters marched along the seafront, a reporter saw about a dozen men throw rocks at guards outside the Brotherhood office. They responded. Bricks and bottles flew. Guns were fired.

Officials said dozens were wounded by birdshot. The party office was ransacked and documents were burned, watched by jubilant youths chanting against Egypt’s Islamist leaders.

In Port Said, a bastion of anti-Islamist sentiment, police had suspected an accident but later said a device exploded among protesters. Canal traffic has not been affected by violence.

Reuters