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Africa

Egypt's Islamists call for more protests after clashes

© FRANCE 24

Video by Olivia SALAZAR-WINSPEAR

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-07-06

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood on Saturday called for another day of protests against the ousting of Mohammed Morsi by the military Wednesday, after overnight clashes between supporters and opponents of the toppled president left at least 30 dead.

Islamists vowed further protests on Saturday to demand the military restore Egypt's first democratically elected leader, after a night of ferocious clashes that killed 30 people and injured more than 1,100 nationwide.

"The masses will continue their civilised protests and peaceful sit-ins in Cairo until the military coup is reversed and the legitimate president is restored," a coalition of Islamist groups said in a statement.

Despite the talk of peaceful demonstrations, residents in parts of Cairo reported seeing dozens of bearded Islamists armed with machine guns, machetes and sticks on Friday night before the deadly clashes broke out.

Snipers were spotted on rooftops, and medics told AFP they treated some residents of the normally quiet middle-class neighbourhood of Manial for bullet wounds with a downward trajectory.

The backlash came two days after the army toppled Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, underlining the determination of his Muslim Brotherhood to disrupt the military's plan for a political transition until new elections.

Ahead of Saturday's new round of protests, central Cairo was already tense, Gallagher Fenwick, FRANCE 24’s special correspondent in Egypt, noted.

“Tension is running high again in downtown Cairo, especially in Tahrir Square after a festive 48 hours following the ousting of former president Mohammed Morsi, with a lot of Egyptians, perhaps in the opposition, thinking that the Islamist camp was done with,” Fenwick said.

“But the Islamists have proved that they are very determined and that they will follow through with their promise to stay in the streets until their president returns”, he added.

Street battles

Protesters opposed to Morsi spent the night in Tahrir Square, epicentre of the 2011 revolt that ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak, who coincidentally appeared in court on Saturday over the killing of protesters during that uprising.

A bridge leading up to Cairo University – where Morsi supporters have been camped out for 10 days – was littered with rocks and burned out tyres from the confrontations.

The Tamarod movement, which engineered the mass protests against Morsi that culminated in his overthrow, urged its supporters to take to the streets again on Sunday.

Tens of thousands of Morsi's supporters turned out on Friday to protest his ouster in the popularly backed military coup.

Equally large numbers of anti-Morsi protesters also flooded the streets of Cairo and the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, sparking pitched battles between members of the rival camps.

Police meanwhile pressed a round-up of top Islamists, announcing the arrest of Khairat al-Shater, widely seen as the most powerful man behind Morsi in the Muslim Brotherhood movement.

At least 12 people were killed in Alexandria as Morsi's supporters and opponents fought in the streets, the official MENA news agency said.

In Cairo's Tahrir Square, at least two people were killed when Morsi supporters traded fire with his opponents, state television reported.

The clashes subsided when troops separated the protesters using armoured vehicles.

"We are not taking sides. Our mission is to secure the lives of protesters," military spokesman Colonel Ahmed Aly told AFP.

Four protesters were killed outside the Republican Guard headquarters after breaking away from a pro-Morsi demonstration, MENA reported.

In the restive north of the Sinai peninsula, armed Morsi supporters stormed the provincial headquarters in the town of El-Arish after a gunfight and raised the black banner of al Qaeda-inspired Islamist militants, an AFP correspondent said.

International outcry

A spokesman for UN chief Ban Ki-moon quoted him calling for a peaceful end to the crisis. "There is no place for retribution or for the exclusion of any major party or community".

The United States too condemned the clashes and urged all leaders including the army to ensure the bloodletting ended.

"We condemn the violence that has taken place today in Egypt. We call on all Egyptian leaders to condemn the use of force and to prevent further violence among their supporters," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

The Islamists accuse the military of conducting a brazen coup against Morsi, after millions called for his ouster on the June 30 anniversary of his first turbulent year in power.

The supreme guide of Morsi's Brotherhood, Mohammed Badie, vowed on Friday that members of the Islamist movement would throng the streets in their millions until his presidency is restored.

"Millions will remain in the squares until we carry our elected president, Mohamed Morsi, on our shoulders," Badie told supporters massed outside Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, before leading chants of "Military coup!" and "Invalid!"

The armed forces have already sworn in Adly Mansour as interim president, and he issued his first decree on Friday, dissolving the Islamist-led parliament and appointing a new intelligence chief.

Morsi "preventively detained"

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.

Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced Morsi's overthrow on Wednesday night, citing his inability to end a deepening political crisis.

Military police rounded up senior Brotherhood members, although two were later released.

Morsi himself was "preventively detained", a senior officer told AFP.

A judicial source said the prosecution would on Monday begin questioning Brotherhood members, including Morsi, for "insulting the judiciary".

Morsi's rule was marked by accusations that he concentrated power in the hands of the Brotherhood.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-07-06

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