CAIRO, July 05, 2013 (AFP)
CAIRO, July 05, 2013 (AFP)
Deadly gunfire rang out in Cairo on Friday as thousands of supporters of deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi marched on the Republican Guard headquarters during mass rallies against the Islamist’s ouster.
An AFP correspondent said at least three people were killed and many more wounded as shooting erupted after thousands of Islamist demonstrators approached the headquarters chanting “traitors” and “Morsi is our president”.
The bodies of two people were covered with sheets, said the correspondent, adding that another protester was shot in the head and fell, parts of his brain spilling from his skull.
The Islamists had streamed on foot towards the headquarters from a Muslim Brotherhood rally that attracted tens of thousands at Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque.
They accuse the military of conducting a brazen coup on Wednesday against Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, after millions called for his ouster on the June 30 anniversary of his first turbulent year in power.
The armed forces have already sworn in an interim president, however, and the newly appointed Adly Mansour issued his first decree on Friday, dissolving the Islamist-led parliament and appointing a new intelligence chief.
Shortly before Friday’s rallies, around a dozen low-flying military jets screeched across Cairo, a day after warplanes had left a heart-shaped trail of smoke in the sky, but the show of force failed to deter Morsi’s supporters.
Shots rang out after one supporter tried to hang a picture of the ousted leader on barbed wire outside the headquarters, said the AFP correspondent.
But, despite being warned twice not to approach the building, the man did so, and the members of the Guard started shooting.
Bursts of gunfire could then be heard from both directions, triggering panic, before security forces used tear gas to disperse the crowd.
A senior Brotherhood official, Ahmed Fahmy, later urged Morsi’s supporters to back off and not to confront the military.
Morsi, who has not been seen since Wednesday, had issued a defiant call for supporters to protect his elected “legitimacy”, in a recorded speech aired hours after his removal.
The military had said it supported the right to peaceful protest, but warned against violence and acts of civil disobedience such as blocking roads.
Armed forces were on high alert in the restive Sinai peninsula, after Islamist militants killed a soldier in a machinegun and rocket attack. Clashes also broke out in the Nile Delta province of Sharqiya.
On the eve of Friday’s rallies, Mansour called for unity in a television interview.
“All I can say to the Egyptian people is to be one body. We had enough of division,” he told Britain’s Channel 4.
“The Muslim Brotherhood is part of the fabric of Egyptian society. They are one of its parties. They are invited to integrate into this nation and be part of it.”
Prominent liberal leader Mohamed ElBaradei defended the military’s intervention.
“We asked the army to intervene because the other option was a civil war. We were between a rock and a hard place, and people need to understand that,” the former UN nuclear watchdog chief told the BBC.
Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced Morsi’s overthrow on Wednesday night, citing his inability to end a deepening political crisis, as dozens of armoured personnel carriers streamed onto Cairo’s streets.
Military police have since rounded up senior members of Morsi’s Brotherhood. But the movement denied reports its supreme leader, Mohammed a die, was among those held, instead saying he would address a rally later on Friday.
Morsi himself was “preventively detained” by the military, a senior officer told AFP hours after his overthrow, suggesting he might face trial.
A judicial source said the prosecution would on Monday begin questioning Brotherhood members, including Morsi, for “insulting the judiciary”.
Thirty-five of them have been banned from travel. Morsi’s rule was marked by accusations that he concentrated power in the hands of the Brotherhood. He was also blamed for a spiralling economic crisis, fuel shortages and violent protests.
His supporters argue the president was confronted at every turn with a hostile bureaucracy left over by former strongman Hosni Mubarak, overthrown in the country’s Arab Spring-inspired uprising of 2011.
US President Barack Obama has said he was “deeply concerned” about events, but refrained from calling the military intervention a coup.
The African Union suspended Egypt in response to Morsi’s ouster, after Middle Eastern governments welcomed the military intervention in varying degrees.