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Army defiant as Morsi supporters fill streets

Photo: AFP

Some 10,000 defiant supporters of deposed president Mohammed Morsi gathered in the streets of Cairo on Friday as fighter jets and military helicopters flew low over the capital and soldiers fired tear gas into a crowd nearing the presidential palace.


At least 10,000 protesters calling for the return to power of Egypt’s ousted president Mohammed Morsi demonstrated in Cairo on Friday as the military lined the streets of the capital and warned of a crackdown on any violence, underlining the point with a show of force by fighter jets and helicopters.

A crowd of protesters nearing the presidential palace were fired at with teargas as the army braced for potential clashes with anti-Morsi supporters, who staged counter-demonstrations in support of the overthrow of the Islamist leader on July 3.

Eight fighter jets screamed over the city both in the morning and afternoon, while two formations of helicopters, some trailing the Egyptian flag, hummed over the rooftops.

Waving their own Egyptian flags, members of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood party marched in the capital, Alexandria and several other cities along the Nile Delta, denouncing what they termed a military coup.

“We are coming out today to restore legitimacy,” Tarek Yassin, 40, who had travelled to Cairo from the southern city of Sohag, told Reuters. “We consider what happened secular thuggery. It would never happen in any democratic country,” he said.

FRANCE 24’s Kathryn Stapley said the atmosphere in the capital was increasingly tense as supporters from both camps continued to fill the streets. “The day had been mainly peaceful until early evening when we started to hear reports that security forces had fired tear gas at Morsi supporters who were trying to get to the presidential palace,” Stapley said. “There were also reports of minor scuffles between Morsi supporters and local residents, which local media said were throwing rocks at each other,” she added.

“We are following the progress of the protests and are ready for all events or escalation,” a military official, who asked not to be named as he was not authorised to talk to the media, told Reuters.

Some 100 people have died in violence since Morsi’s removal, more than half of them when troops fired on Islamist protesters outside a Cairo barracks on July 8. Seven people died earlier this week in clashes between opposing camps.

Army ‘losing patience’

FRANCE 24’s Sonia Dridi said that the Morsi supporters had entitled Friday’s protest “Overturn the Coup,” adding that the authorities were losing patience with the movement. “Clashes seem increasingly likely, especially if the Brotherhood continue to block the roads,” she said.

The army has dismissed any talk of a coup, saying it was forced to intervene following massive protests on June 30 against Morsi, denounced by his many critics as incompetent and partisan after just a year in office.

It has called for a new constitution and a swift new vote, installing an interim cabinet that includes no members of the Brotherhood or other Islamist parties that triumphed in a string of elections following the fall of Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Morsi is being held in an undisclosed location by the army, and numerous senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders have also been detained in recent days.

Muslim Brotherhood leaders say they will not resort to violence in their campaign to reinstate Morsi, but refuse to accept the overthrow of the country’s first democratically elected president. “The Brotherhood are determined and demonstrating is all they have left,” Dridi said.

“The goal of our peaceful mass rallies and peaceful sit-ins in squares across Egypt is to force the coup plotters to reverse their action,” Essam el-Erian, a senior Brotherhood official, said on his Facebook page.

Stapley said that the interim government was also determined in steaming ahead with the political process and ignoring the protests. “We’re seeing complete intransigence from both sides and it’s really difficult to see a way forward from this impasse,” she said.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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