CAIRO: Violent clashes broke out across Egypt when supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi staged a “day of rage” to protest against the killings of more than 638 by security forces on Wednesday. At least 95 people have reportedly been killed by armed men. TheMuslim Brotherhood has called on its supporters to stage daily protests.
Tens of thousands of people marched towards Ramses Square in downtown Cairo after the iconic Tahrir Square was cordoned off by the army. The pro-Morsi camp is defying the military-imposed state of emergency.
In Cairo, clashes broke out on the May 15 Bridge and the sound of gunfire could be heard coming from an area near the front of a large column of pro-Morsi supporters.
A man in civilian clothes with a gun was seen occasionally firing at pro-Morsi supporters as he walked with protesters on the bridge. Later, crowds of people appeared to be trapped on the bridge by occasional bursts of gunfire on one side and tear gas on the other. There were reports of people jumping from the nearby October 6 Bridge to the ground below to escape live bullets. The corniche that leads to Ramses Square saw a lot of violence.
Heavy machine-gun fire could also be heard ringing out periodically in other parts of central Cairo. An eyewitness said, “Armed men were shooting from helicopters and I lost my friend to the live firing. There were people also shooting the protestors from roof tops.”
When a military helicopter flew low over Ramses Square, protesters held up stones shouting, “We will bring Sisi to the ground” and “traitor”.
As the security forces began firing tear gas, protesters which including young and old, men and women, donned surgical masks, gas masks and wrapped bandannas around their faces. Some rubbed Pepsi on their faces to counter the gas.
“Allahu akbar!” the crowd chanted.
Egypt’s military has stepped up security around Cairo after at least 638 people were killed and nearly 4,000 injured on Wednesday when security forces cleared sit-in protests by supporters of deposed Islamist president Morsi.
Armoured personnel carriers and tanks could be seen at several places in central Cairo and the military announced it would deploy troops to guard “vital installations”.
The army deployed dozens of armoured vehicles and tanks on major roads around the capital after Morsi’s Brotherhood movement called for demonstrations. The interior ministry said police would use live ammunition against anyone threatening public buildings. The endowment ministry calls on powers to avoid using mosques in the struggle.
“In light of the Muslim Brotherhood’s targeting of some police and state institutions in several cities, the law permits policemen to use measures to secure the national and stop attacks on citizens and public and private property,” the ministry said on its Facebook page on Thursday.
The Muslim Brotherhood called for a nationwide march of millions on Friday to demonstrate anger over the deaths by security forces. The only mortuary in Cairo is struggling to record the number of deaths and bodies are lying outside on the streets waiting to be recorded.
A statement on the Muslim Brotherhood’s website said, “We call on the great Egyptian people to gather in all revolutionary squares on the Friday of rage.”
“The struggle to overthrow this illegitimate regime is an obligation, an Islamic, national, moral, and human obligation which we will not steer away from until justice and freedom prevail, and until repression is conquered,” it said.
It further said, “Our revolution is peaceful, and … violence is not our approach.”
Violence spread on Thursday, with government buildings set ablaze, policemen gunned down and scores of churches attacked. An angry crowd stormed the governor’s office in Giza, the city next to Cairo that is home to the pyramids. State TV blamed Morsi’s supporters for the arson and broadcast footage showing firefighters evacuating employees from the larger building of Giza’s government offices.
Emergency services also said eight protesters were killed in clashes in the Mediterranean town of Damietta, and four people died in the northeastern city of Ismailia. Violence was also reported in Egypt’s second largest city Alexandria and ten people have been reportedly killed there. The security forces also clashed with pro-Morsi supporters in the Nile Delta city of Tanta.