Cairo - Egyptian security
forces shot dead dozens of supporters of ousted Islamist President
Mohamed Mursi on Saturday, witnesses said, days after the army chief
called for a popular mandate to wipe out "violence and terrorism".
Men in helmets and black police
fatigues fired on crowds gathered before dawn on the fringes of a
round-the-clock sit-in near a mosque in northeast Cairo, Mursi's Muslim
Brotherhood movement said.
are not shooting to wound, they are shooting to kill," said Brotherhood
spokesman Gehad El-Haddad. "The bullet wounds are in the head and
The bloodshed, near the
military parade ground where President Anwar Sadat was assassinated in
1981, has rocked a country already struggling with the transition to
democracy two years after Hosni Mubarak was swept from power.
Muslim Brotherhood website said 120 people had been killed and some
4,500 injured. A Reuters reporter counted 36 bodies at one morgue, while
health officials said there were a further 21 corpses in two nearby
blood-spattered casualties into a makeshift hospital. Some were carried
in on planks or blankets. One ashen teenager was laid out on the floor, a
bullet hole in his head.
Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim accused the Brotherhood of
exaggerating the death toll for political ends. He said only 21 people
had died and denied police opened fire.
said local residents living close to the Rabaa al-Adawia mosque vigil
had clashed with protesters in the early hours after they had blocked
off a major bridge road. He said that police had used teargas to try to
break up the fighting.
200 people have been killed in violence since the army toppled Mursi on
July 3, following huge protests against his year in power. The army
denies accusations it staged a coup, saying it intervened to prevent
of thousands of Egyptians had poured onto the streets on Friday in
response to a call by army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for
nationwide demonstrations to give him backing to confront the weeks-long
wave of violence.
His appeal was
seen as a challenge to the Brotherhood, which organized its own rallies
on Friday calling for the return of Mursi, who has been held in an
undisclosed location since his ousting and faces a raft of charges,
Ibrahim said Mursi was likely to be transferred shortly to the same Cairo prison where former leader Mubarak is now held.
Brotherhood leaders appealed for calm on Saturday, but activists at the Rabaa al-Adawia mosque vigil voiced fury.
people want the execution of Sisi," a cleric shouted to the crowd from a
stage by the mosque. "The people want the execution of the butcher."
Minister Ibrahim said the pro-Mursi sit-ins would "God willing, soon
... be dealt with" based on a decision by a public prosecutor, who is
reviewing complaints from local residents unhappy with the huge
encampment on their doorstep.
head of the Nour Party, the second-biggest Islamist group after the
Brotherhood, called for an immediate investigation into what it called a
"There is no
substitute for a political solution with the commitment of everyone to
exercise restraint ... and to renounce violence in all its forms,
whether verbal or physical," Younis Makhyoun said in a Facebook
The Brotherhood is a
highly organized movement with grassroots support throughout Egypt,
making it hard to silence even if the army decides to mount a bigger
European Union foreign
policy chief Catherine Ashton said she "deeply deplores" Saturday's
deaths and urged all sides to halt the violence. There was no immediate
comment from the United States, which provides Egypt with some $1.5
billion dollars of aid a year, mainly military hardware.
has delayed delivery of four F-16 fighters because of the turmoil.
However, officials have indicated they do not intend to cut off aid to a
country seen as a vital ally and which has a peace deal with
said police first fired rounds of teargas at Brotherhood protesters
gathered on a boulevard leading away from the Rabaa mosque, with live
shots ringing out soon afterwards.
were snipers on the rooftops, I could hear the bullets whizzing past
me," said Ahmed el Nashar, 34, a business consultant, choking back his
"Man, people were just dropping."
Dr. Ibtisam Zein, overseeing the Brotherhood morgue, said most of the dead were hit in the head, some between the eyes.
bodies were wrapped in white sheets and laid on the floor, their names
scrawled on the shrouds. A cleaner busily mopped the floor, washing away
pools of blood.
Haddad said the
Brotherhood remained committed to pursuing peaceful protests, despite
Saturday's deaths - the second mass shooting of its supporters this
month by security forces, who killed 53 people on July 8.
activists at Rabaa said they would not be cowed and warned of worse
bloodshed if the security forces did not back down. "We will stay here
until we die, one by one," said Ahmed Ali, 24, helping treat casualties
at the field hospital.
"We have the examples of Algeria and Syria in our minds. We don't want it to become a civil war. If we take up arms it might become one. This is a religious belief."