July 8, 2013

Morsi backers urge uprising after 51 killed in Egypt

The military says it was provoked into firing on protesters, but a Muslim group denies it.

The Associated Press

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Bodies lie in a room of a hospital after shooting happened at the Republican Guard building in Nasr City, Cairo, Monday, July 8, 2013. Egyptian soldiers and police opened fire on supporters of the ousted president early Monday in violence outside the military building in Cairo where demonstrators had been holding a sit-in, government officials and witnesses said. (AP Photo/Wissam Nassar)

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Egyptian army stand guard around the Republican Guard building in Nasr City in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, July 8, 2013. Egyptian soldiers and police opened fire on supporters of the ousted President Mohammed Morsi early Monday in violence that left dozens of people killed, including one officer, outside the military building in Cairo where demonstrators had been holding a sit-in, government officials and witnesses said. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

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Meanwhile, the main Tamarod activist group, which organized the massive protests last week that led to Morsi's removal, called for the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing to be dissolved and its leadership barred from political life.

That treatment, Tamarod said on Twitter, would echo the ban placed on former president Hosni Mubarak's political party after the 2011 Egyptian revolution. A ban on the Muslim Brotherhood and other religious parties would also fall in line with Mubarak's own policy, under which many of the brotherhood's leaders spent decades moving in and out of prison.

Askar, the senior military spokesman, suggested that the soldiers guarding the Republican Guard palace were targeted in a coordinated attack that involved rifle fire, molotov cocktails and positions atop nearby tall buildings. He said 200 people were arrested during the day, and that the investigations and interrogations would be done by police and prosecutors, not by the army.

Askar disputed statements, videos and evidence offered by Muslim Brotherhood activists, charging that bullet casings, for example, could not have traveled hundreds of yards from soldiers' guns into the crowds. "I will tell you where they came from," he said. "The protesters had these bullets with them."

Seeking to explain their version of events, military and police spokesmen showed reporters images from army cameras on the ground and aboard helicopters, as well as some news footage, saying the images portrayed an increasingly fierce attack on troops by Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

Individuals in the crowd are shown hurling rocks at the troops and later launching shards of toilet bowls from rooftops and throwing what appear to be spears. Tires are set ablaze, and one group of young men is shown filling bottles and throwing molotov cocktails.

The army evidence includes videos that show one man with a short rifle and another with a handgun firing at the soldiers.

"Any law in the world allows soldiers to defend Egyptian security when confronted with live fire," another military spokesman, Ahmed Mohamed Ali, told reporters. "We are no longer talking about peaceful protests."

At an emotional news conference at the Rabaa al-Adawiya Mosque, where Morsi supporters have camped since the Islamist president was deposed Wednesday, a doctor and others said protesters had been shot in the back as they knelt to pray.

"These past three or four hours have been the worst in my life," said Hisham Ibrahim, the doctor directing the field hospital outside the mosque that had received many of the victims. He said the makeshift medical center was equipped only for routine first aid and lacked the supplies to handle a mass shooting.

Morsi was forced from office last week by Egypt's powerful military, which said it was motivated to act by millions of anti-government demonstrators who had taken to the streets to demand that Morsi leave.

Since his ouster, however, Morsi supporters have turned out in force, triggering clashes with security forces on Friday. While the weekend was largely quiet, Monday's violence ratcheted up the tension considerably and made the goal of forming some sort of national unity government appear ever more elusive.

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo announced Monday that it would be closed to the public on Tuesday, citing the risk of protests near the embassy compound, which is in the center of Cairo close to Tahrir Square. Many anti-Morsi demonstrations have taken on an anti-American tone, with protesters asserting that the Obama administration supports the Muslim Brotherhood. The Obama administration has been cautious in its comments about the coup, urging a peaceful transition back to democratic elections.

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Additional Photos

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A supporter of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi stands outside a local hospital in Cairo holding a bloodied shirt he says belongs to a protester shot by soldiers during a demonstration, Monday, July 8, 2013. Egyptian soldiers and police opened fire on supporters of the ousted president early Monday in violence that left dozens of people killed, including one officer, outside a military building in Cairo where demonstrators had been holding a sit-in, government officials and witnesses said. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)

  


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