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Turbulent Cairo is headed for bloody Saturday

August 16, 2013 14:43 IST

Turbulent Cairo is headed for bloody Saturday

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Egypt braced for more confrontations on Friday after the defiant Muslim Brotherhood called for a nationwide 'millions march of anger' to protest against a brutal security crackdown on supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi.

The Muslim Brotherhood stormed and torched local government offices as they began a march from the Al-Iman mosque in Cairo, a day after over 638 people were killed in the deadliest crackdown by security forces on supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.

The march set out from the Al-Iman mosque, where dozens of corpses of protesters clad in white shrouds were lined up before grieving relatives.

Hundreds of Morsi supporters attacked the local government offices in Giza and set them ablaze. Television footage showed the headquarters in flames as men tried to douse the fire with hoses. Assailants used Molotov bombs to burn down the building, Al Arabiya reported.

There were also reports of clashes in Ma'adi, a neighbourhood in southern Cairo, between local residents and Morsi supporters, with witnesses saying both sides exchanged gunfire.

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Image: Suspects are rounded up near a burnt annex building of Rabaa Adawiya mosque after the clearing of a protest camp around the mosque, in Cairo
Photographs: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

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Muslim Brotherhood and anti-Morsi supporters Tamarod urged nationwide rival rallies on Saturday, setting the stage for fresh confrontation.

"To every free Egyptian man and woman: Come out against the bloody military coup," Muslim Brotherhood and allies grouped in the National Alliance for Legitimacy said in a statement, predicting millions would take to the streets.

Tamarod (Rebellion) movement, which launched the June 30 protest that led to the ouster of Morsi, urged all Egyptians to take to the streets to defend the country from
"terrorism".

"During these difficult times, we must all stand together... to defend the future of our children from terrorism and the dark forces which want to drag us back centuries," the group said.

Tamarod called on "the great people of Egypt to form popular committees on all streets, outside homes and churches around the country, carrying Egyptian flags to reject domestic terrorism and foreign interference," the group said.

The Muslim Brotherhood has called on pro-Morsi supporters to stage "anti-coup rallies" after Friday prayers to protest deadly crackdown.

The announcement comes a day after hundreds of people were killed, when security forces cleared two pro-Morsi protest camps, ending sit-ins that began after the army toppled Morsi on July 3.

"Anti-coup rallies tomorrow will depart from all mosques of Cairo and head towards Ramsis square after Jumaa prayer in 'Friday of Anger'," Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Gehad el-Haddad wrote on his Twitter account.

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Image: A poster of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi that reads 'Yes to legitimacy; no to the coup' lies amid the debris of a cleared protest camp
Photographs: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

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"Despite the pain and sorrow over the loss of our martyrs, the latest coup makers' crime has increased our determination to end them," the group said in a statement.

Officials from the Muslim Brotherhood have said the death toll was eight or nine times higher than the government figures.

The Muslim Brotherhood said it suffered a strong blow from the state security crackdown. The bloodshed means anger is now "beyond control", said the group.

Meanwhile, Egypt spent its first day under emergency rule and curfew on Thursdat, with Cairo remaining tense and bracing for further unrest.

But defiant Morsi supporters attacked the local government offices in Giza and set them ablaze. Television footage showed the headquarters in flames as men tried to douse the fire with hoses. Assailants used Molotov bombs to burn down the building.

There were also reports of clashes in Ma'adi, a neighbourhood in southern Cairo, between local residents and Morsi supporters, with witnesses saying both sides exchanged gunfire.

The army-backed interim government has defended the crackdown, saying authorities had no choice but to act.

Defying criticism from major Western allies, Egypt's government warned it would turn its guns on anyone who attacked the police or public institutions after protesters torched a government building in Cairo.

Leftist coalition the National Salvation Front also called on Egyptians to protest against what it said was "obvious terror actions" conducted by the Muslim Brotherhood.

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Image: People walk inside the burnt Rabaa Adawiya mosque, the morning after the clearing of a protest which was held around the mosque
Photographs: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

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Warning that Egypt had entered a "more dangerous path", President Barack Obama cancelled United States military exercises with the Arab country to protest the killing of hundreds of Egyptian protesters.

"We deplore violence against civilians. We support universal rights essential to human dignity, including the right to peaceful protest," he said.

The Egyptian presidency issued a statement saying Obama's remarks were not based on facts and would strengthen and encourage violent groups that were committing "terrorist acts."

The military issued a stern warning against violence and interim President Adly Mansour said he would protect the country against those seeking "chaos" in his first address to ,the nation.

The military statement said that "whoever resorts to violence and deviates from peacefulness in Friday's rallies will put his life in danger".

After the attack on Giza governorates, the interior ministry has instructed "all forces to use live ammunition to counter any attacks on government buildings or forces."

In a separate statement, the cabinet accused Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood of committing acts of "terrorism and vandalism".

Earlier, the Muslim Brotherhood vowed to bring down the military-backed government as it called for a massive anti-regime rally against the crackdown that, it claimed, has left 2,000 people dead.

"We will always be non-violent and peaceful. We remain strong, defiant and resolved," Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad wrote on his Twitter feed.

"We will push (forward) until we bring down this military coup," he added.

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Image: A man uses a phone to record events in the Rabaa Adawiya mosque complex
Photographs: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

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Nationwide protests erupted on Thursday after the crackdown by security forces on supporters of 62-year-old Morsi in Cairo and elsewhere killed hundreds of people. The protesters were demanding the reinstatement of Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president, who was deposed by the army on July 3.

Egyptian interior ministry said that at least 43 police officers were also killed and more than 3,500 people injured during countrywide clashes on Thursday after security forces evicted supporters of Morsi from two protest camps in Cairo.

Egypt's army-backed interim prime minister defended the deadly operation by security forces, against supporters of Morsi, who were camped at Rabaa al-Adaweya and al-Nahda.

In a televised statement, Hazem el-Beblawi said the decision to break up the protests "was not easy" and came only after the government had given mediation efforts a chance.

"We found that matters had reached a point that no self respecting state could accept," he said, citing what he describes as "the spread of anarchy and attacks on hospitals and police stations".

Police and troops used bulldozers, teargas and live fire to clear out two Cairo sit-ins that had become a hub of Muslim Brotherhood protests against the military.

The government imposed a month-long emergency after riot police backed by armoured vehicles, bulldozers and helicopters cleared the two encampments of Morsi supporters.

Security forces shot dead scores of people in their assault on the camps, defying international pleas to show restraint after a six-week stand-off with Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood supporters, Al Jazeera news channel reported.

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Image: Riot police gather behind an armoured vehicle during a clash with members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi
Photographs: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

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Vice-President Mohamed ElBaradei resigned on Thursday, saying peaceful means could still have been found to end the confrontation, but other members of the government have rallied behind the decision to use force.

ElBaradei announced his resignation saying that, "(he) can no longer bear responsibility for decisions that (he does not) agree with, and whose repercussions he dreads. (He) cannot be responsible for a single drop of blood before God, (his) conscience, and (his) people, especially that (he) believes the dropping of that blood could have been avoided."

ElBaradei's resignation sparked mixed reaction among Egyptian youth and political elite alike. Tamarrod (Rebel) movement accused ElBaradie of "quitting at a historic moment".

Meanwhile, Beblawi said the emergency would be for the shortest period possible. He said that the government was committed to an army-backed road map to restore democracy.

The measure, scheduled to last for a month, also imposes a curfew in Cairo and several other provinces between 7 pm (10.30 pm IST) and 6 am (9.30 am IST).

"There was a need for the state to intervene with an extraordinary measure which is the emergency law. God willing, we will continue. We will build our democratic, civilian state," he said.

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Image: Riot police vehicles fire tear gas at members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, around Cairo University and Nahdet Misr Square, where they are camping in Giza, south of Cairo
Photographs: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

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Three journalists, including a cameraman for British broadcaster Sky News and a Dubai-based newspaper reporter, were killed and several were injured in the violence.

Mick Deane, a cameraman for the UK-based Sky News channel, and Habiba Abd Elaziz, a reporter for the UAE-based Xpress newspaper, died from bullet wounds.

Egyptian journalist Ahmed Abdel Gawad, who wrote for the state-run newspaper Al Akhbar, was killed while covering the crackdown at Rabaah al-Adawiya.

International condemnation of the violence was swift, with US Secretary of State John Kerry calling it "deplorable".

The United Nations, the European Union, Britain, France, Iran, Qatar and Turkey strongly denounced the use of force by the military-backed interim government.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called on security forces to "exercise utmost restraint".

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Image: Relatives of dead members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi react and cry at El Eyman mosque
Photographs: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

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