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

CAIRO — The political wing of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood called Monday for a popular uprising against the military after soldiers opened fire on supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi as they gathered outside the building where they believe Morsi is being held.

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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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State-run television said 51 people were killed and 435 were wounded. Mahmoud Zaqzooq, a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman, said 53 were shot dead, including five children.

There were conflicting accounts of what triggered the violence. Brotherhood officials and several witnesses said troops opened fire unprovoked as the protesters were reciting dawn prayers. But a military spokesman said armed members of the pro-Morsi camp attacked troops at the headquarters, leading to one soldier's death, and the military responded with force afterward.

Mohamed Askar, a senior military spokesman, said the protesters "came at us with machine guns, with live rounds, with bird shot." Askar said Egyptian troops were shot at from nearby rooftops, and that one officer was killed by a bullet that struck him on the top of the head. Another soldier was wounded and shown in video taken by the military, his chest peppered with shotgun pellets.

Protesters described a scene of confusion and chaos as live gunfire, bird shot and tear gas seemed to come from all sides.

"I don't remember where we were facing, but the shooting came from everywhere," said Abdel Rahman Mahmoud, a young subway cleaner, who sat on the concrete at the Muslim Brotherhood's makeshift field hospital, both arms bandaged and sweat beading on his forehead.

Abdel Naguib Mahmoud, a lawyer from the Nile Delta town of Zagazig, said he and fellow protesters had knelt to the pavement for the second time, their backs to the Republican Guard palace, when he heard shouted warnings from the perimeter that security forces were encroaching.

"So we finished our prayer rapidly," Mahmoud said. He said he heard the resounding boom of tear gas canisters being fired and the crackle of gunfire. Running toward the entrance of the sit-in area, he and several friends began to pick up the wounded, Mahmoud said. More shots rang out, and the men lay down on the pavement.

Mahmoud said he saw forces in military fatigues and police dressed in black. Moments later, an officer stood over him and kicked him, telling him to move, he said. When he ran, gunmen opened fire. He said he was hit in the back with birdshot, and he lifted his shirt to reveal a scattering of small bloodied wounds.

The violence dealt a significant blow to an already fragile political process. The brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party issued a statement calling for an "uprising against those who want to steal the revolution with tanks" and asking the world to prevent a "new Syria."

The ultra-conservative Salafist Nour party, the only Islamist group to support Morsi's ouster, said it would abandon negotiations over who should take over as prime minister of Egypt to protest what it described as a "massacre."

Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb of the al-Azhar Mosque, Egypt's top Islamic authority, had previously expressed support for Morsi's ouster. But on Monday, he appeared on state television and called for all political prisoners to be freed and for a transition period back to democracy of no more than six months. He said he would remain in seclusion at his home "until everybody takes responsibility to stop the bloodshed, to prevent the country from being dragged into a civil war."

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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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