Dozens of Egyptians, most of them supporters of ousted president Mohammed Mursi, were killed Monday while demonstrating against last week’s military coup, triggering an Islamist uprising call and dashing the army’s hopes for an interim civilian administration.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which has led demonstrations against Wednesday’s overthrow of Mursi, said its supporters were “massacred” by troops and police during dawn prayers in Cairo.
The military blamed “terrorists” while witnesses, including Brotherhood supporters at the scene, said the armed forces fired only warning shots and tear gas, and that “thugs” in civilian clothes carried out the shootings.
Medics put the number of deaths at 51 with 435 wounded.
The army-appointed interim president, Adly Mansour, set up a judicial commission of inquiry into the killings.
The Salafi Al-Nur party, which won almost a quarter of the votes in 2011-2012 parliamentary elections and had backed the army’s overthrow of Mursi, said it was pulling out of talks on a new government in response to the “massacre.”
The bloodshed happened outside the headquarters of the elite Republican Guard, which the Brotherhood accuses of betraying Mursi, Egypt’s first freely elected president.
Islamists hurled stones at the security forces who responded with tear gas, as firefighters battled to extinguish a blaze in an apartment block.
Chaos ensued as people searched for the names of missing loved ones on a list of the dead in hospital, where dozens of bodies were laid on the bloody floor of a makeshift morgue.
The army said “armed terrorists” tried to storm the base, killing one security officer and critically wounding six.
Military spokesman Ahmed Ali said that at 4:00 am, armed men attacked troops in the area around the Republican Guard compound in the northeast of the city.
“The armed forces always deal with issues very wisely, but there is certainly also a limit to patience,” the uniformed Ali told a news conference, at which he presented what he said was video evidence, some of it apparently taken from a helicopter.
The army warned it would not allow anyone to threaten national security, reiterated a call for protesters to stay away from military installations and urged them to end their sit-ins.
The Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, called for “an uprising by the great people of Egypt against those trying to steal their revolution with tanks.”
It urged “the international community and international groups and all the free people of the world to intervene to stop further massacres… and prevent a new Syria in the Arab world.”
A security official said prosecutors later ordered the closure of the FJP’s Cairo headquarters after police discovered weapons they alleged would be used against Mursi opponents.
Earlier Monday armed supporters Mursi seized two soldiers in Cairo who were identified as Samir Abdallah Ali and Azzam Hazem Ali.
The soldiers were put in a vehicle and forced to make pro-Mursi and anti-army statements on a loudspeaker, an official cited by state news agency MENA said.
One soldier had been “severely beaten up” and filmed while making the pro-Mursi statements, he added.
Supporters of Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood have mobilized in large numbers in different parts of Cairo in recent days, vowing to defend the deposed president.
(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)