Dozens die as clashes erupt at Morsi rally in Cairo

27th July 2013, Comments 0 comments

Dozens of Mohamed Morsi's supporters were shot dead in the Egyptian capital on Saturday as violence erupted after a night of massive rallies for and against the ousted Islamist president.

Morsi's camp said more than 100 people were killed. An AFP correspondent counted 37 bodies in an Islamist-run field hospital at Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, and the emergency services said other hospitals received 29 corpses.

The bloodshed came hours after the military-backed interior minister, Mohammed Ibrahim, warned a long-running sit-in by Morsi loyalists at Rabaa al-Adawiya would be ended following a night of protests by hundreds of thousands of the Islamist's supporters and opponents.

It erupted at dawn outside the mosque, where Morsi loyalists have been camped since the week before the military ousted him on July 3, with police firing tear gas at stone-throwing protesters on the airport road, said the official MENA news agency.

Buckshot and live rounds were fired, but it was unclear from which side. Witnesses told AFP that the police used live bullets, but the interior ministry denied this.

By midday on Saturday, medical workers began ferrying bodies wrapped in white shrouds to hospitals, carrying them on blood-soaked stretchers past a furious throng of Morsi loyalists.

"Allahu akbar! (God is greatest)," chanted the crowd that formed a corridor to waiting ambulances.

Some wept and women ululated defiantly as each body was taken from the makeshift morgue in a marble-floored section of the mosque.

Medics at the field hospital said a total of 75 people were killed, including bodies taken elsewhere.

Essam Sultan of the health ministry's emergency services said his toll of 29 dead included only bodies that had reached morgues, and excluded the 37 at the Rabaa al-Adawiya field hospital. The ministry said 177 people were wounded.

The Islamist Anti-Coup Coalition that organises the Rabaa al-Adawiya protest said "over 100 people" were killed.

Thousands of supporters and opponents of the coup also took to the streets of second city Alexandria, sparking fierce clashes that killed seven people and wounded 194.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague condemned the use of force against protesters in Cairo and accused Egyptian security forces of using live rounds.

"I call on the Egyptian authorities to respect the right of peaceful protest, to cease the use of violence against protestors, including live fire, and to hold to account those responsible," said Hague.

But General Hany Abdel Latif said the police "did not use more than tear gas," and accused the Islamist protesters of starting the violence.

He accused the Islamists of firing on the members of the security forces, wounding 14 policemen, including two who were in critical condition after being shot in the head.

The bloodshed came hours after interim interior minister Mohammed Ibrahim said the military-backed government would move swiftly to break up the Islamist protest camp in Nasr City.

"There will be decisions from the prosecutor soon, and this situation will be ended," he told satellite television channel Al-Hayat.

Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who orchestrated the coup, had called for a mass show of support on Friday for a crackdown on "terrorism".

Hundreds of thousands of anti-Morsi protesters obliged, thronging Cairo's Tahrir Square and around the Ittihadiya presidential palace.

A spokesman for army-installed president Adly Mansour said the numbers "affirmed the rejection of terrorism", MENA said.

But the Anti-Coup Coalition said its own turnout on Friday proved that those who took part "reject the bloody, military fascist coup that wants to set the wheel of history back".

"We believe the next two days will be decisive in the history of Egypt," it said.

On Friday, the authorities charged Morsi with murder and formally remanded him in custody for 15 days. He had been held without charge since hours after his ouster.

Morsi stands accused of the "premeditated murder of some prisoners, officers and soldiers" when he broke out of prison during the 2011 uprising that toppled veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak, MENA said.

He was also suspected of conspiring to "storm prisons and destroy them... allowing prisoners to escape, including himself".

The military has so far kept Morsi's whereabouts secret to avoid attracting protests by his supporters.

Egypt, the Arab world's most populous country, has been rocked by violence that has killed some 200 people since the coup.

The army has said there will be no reneging on a roadmap to fresh elections next year.

Western governments are monitoring the crisis with growing unease, fearing the military may be angling for a prolonged power grab.

Egypt's military is also facing daily militant attacks in the Sinai Peninsula bordering Israel. Militant attacks there killed a civilian and wounded five soldiers on Friday.

© 2013 AFP

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