Published — Saturday 13 July 2013
Last update 17 July 2013 3:45 am
CAIRO: Supporters of ousted President Mohamed Mursi called for protests yesterday and Egyptians prayed there would be no repeat of clashes that have killed more than 90 people in the last week in the bitterly divided Arab nation.
More than a week after the army toppled Egypt’s first elected leader on a wave of demonstrations, Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement wants people to join it on the streets to push for his reinstatement, which now looks like a lost cause.
Officials say Mursi is still being held at the Republican Guard compound in Cairo, where troops killed 53 protesters on Monday in violence that intensified anger his allies already felt at the military’s decision to oust him.
Four members of the security forces were also killed in that confrontation, which the military blames on “terrorists.” Mursi’s supporters call it a massacre and say those who died were praying peacefully when troops opened fire.
Many of Egypt’s 84 million people have been shocked by the shootings, graphic images of which have appeared on state and private news channels and social media. The incident occurred just three days after 35 people were killed in clashes between pro- and anti-Mursi demonstrators across the country.
“It’s a very hard time for Egyptians, to see footage of blood and violence during the holy month of Ramadan, and everyone I speak to says the same thing,” said Fateh Ali, a 54-year-old civil servant in Cairo.
“I really hope the situation gets resolved soon. I don’t think we can afford this economically or psychologically.”
The Brotherhood contends it is the victim of a military crackdown, evoking memories of its suppression under Hosni Mubarak, whose 30-year rule collapsed in an uprising in 2011. The unrest has also raised fear over security in the lawless Sinai peninsula bordering Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip. One Egyptian policeman was killed and another wounded early yesterday when militants fired rocket-propelled grenades at checkpoints in the Sinai town of El Arish.
Egyptian state media said police arrested three Palestinian militants for attempted attacks in Sinai.
Outside the Rabaa Adawiya mosque in northeastern Cairo, thousands of Brotherhood supporters gathered late on Thursday to mourn the dead in Monday’s violence, the deadliest since Mubarak was toppled, apart from a 2012 soccer stadium riot. Women wailed and men cried as they watched a large screen showing graphic footage of hospital scenes immediately after the shooting, with corpses on the floor and medics struggling to cope with the number of bloodied casualties being carried in.
Hundreds of Egyptian flags fluttered in the evening breeze. Songs of defiance were sung. Many thousands of Islamists have camped out in the area, braving searing heat and, since Wednesday, daytime fasting during Ramadan.
It has become the de facto base of the Brotherhood, whose leaders live under the threat of detention after the public prosecutor ordered their arrests earlier in the week.
Judicial sources say authorities are expected to charge Mursi, possibly for corruption or links to violence. Prosecutors are also taking a fresh look at an old case over a 2011 prison break when Mursi was among Brotherhood figures who escaped after being rounded up during anti-Mubarak protests.
The detentions and threats of arrest have drawn concern from the United States, which has walked a semantic tightrope to avoid calling Mursi’s ouster a military coup.
US law bars aid to countries where a democratic government is removed in a coup. Washington, which gives Egypt’s military $1.3 billion in aid each year, has said it is too early to say whether Mursi’s removal by the army meets that description.
The army said it was enforcing the nation’s will after millions of people, fed up at economic stagnation and suspicious of a Brotherhood power grab, took to the streets at the end of June to demand his resignation.