August 16, 2013

Egypt's Islamists take to streets in 'Day of Rage'

The government has authorized the use of deadly force against protesters targeting police and state institutions while the international community has urged both sides to show restraint.

By Aya Batrawy / The Associated Press

CAIRO — Thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters have taken to the streets in several Cairo neighborhoods and elsewhere in Egypt in defiance of the military-imposed state of emergency.

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People mourn sitting next to bodies of supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi at the El-Iman mosque in Cairo's Nasr City, Egypt, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013. Egyptian authorities on Thursday significantly raised the death toll from clashes the previous day between police and supporters of the ousted Islamist president, saying hundreds of people died and laying bare the extent of the violence that swept much of the country and prompted the government to declare a nationwide state of emergency and a nighttime curfew. (AP Photo/Ahmed Gomaa)

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Supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi capture an Egyptian security forces vehicle at the Ministry of Finance in Cairo on Wednesday.

AP

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The protesters poured out of the mosques after Friday prayers, responding to the group's call for a "Day of Rage" following the deaths of 638 people Wednesday when riot police backed by armored vehicles, snipers and bulldozers smashed the two sit-ins in Cairo where ousted President Mohammed Morsi's supporters had been camped out for six weeks to demand his reinstatement.

The government has authorized the use of deadly force against protesters targeting police and state institutions while the international community has urged both sides in Egypt to show restraint and end the turmoil engulfing the nation.

Nearly 4,000 people were wounded in Wednesday's violence. It was the deadliest day by far since the 2011 popular uprising that overthrew autocratic ruler Hosni Mubarak and plunged the country into more than two years of instability.

The Health Ministry said that 288 of those killed were in the largest protest camp in Cairo's Nasr City district, while 90 others were slain in a smaller encampment in Giza, near Cairo University. Others died in clashes that broke out between Morsi's supporters and security forces or anti-Morsi protesters elsewhere in the Egyptian capital and other cities.

Violence spread on Thursday, with government buildings set afire, policemen gunned down and scores of Christian churches attacked. An angry crowd stormed the governor's office in Giza, the city next to Cairo that is home to the pyramids. State TV blamed Morsi's supporters for the arson and broadcast footage showing firefighters evacuating employees from the larger building of Giza's government offices.

As turmoil spread, the Interior Ministry authorized the use of deadly force against protesters targeting police and state institutions. Egypt's military-backed government also pledged to confront "terrorist actions and sabotage" allegedly carried out by Muslim Brotherhood members.

The Brotherhood, trying to regroup after the assault on its encampments and the arrest of many of its leaders, called for a mass rally Friday in a challenge to the government's declaration of a monthlong state of emergency and a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

Also Thursday, the U.N. Security Council urged both the Egyptian government and the Muslim Brotherhood to exercise "maximum restraint" and work toward national reconciliation.

In Cairo, weeping relatives filled the mosque-turned-morgue near the gutted pro-Morsi protest camp in Nasr City, spilled into the courtyard and the streets. Inside, the names of the dead were scribbled on white sheets covering the bodies, some of them charred, and a list with 265 names was plastered on the wall. Heat made the stench from the corpses almost unbearable as the ice brought in to chill the bodies melted and household fans offered little relief.

Many people complained that authorities were preventing them from obtaining permits to bury their dead, although the Muslim Brotherhood announced that several funerals had been held Thursday.

A woman cradled the head of a slain man in her lap, fanning it with a paper fan. Nearby, an anguished man shouted, "God take revenge on you el-Sissi!" a reference to the powerful military chief, Gen. Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi.

 

Slumped over the body of his brother, Ihab el-Sayyed said the 24-year-old was getting ready for his wedding next week. "Last time I heard his voice was an hour or two before I heard of his death," he said, choking back tears.

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