Rallies organized by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood on Friday were met with gunfire by security forces, killing at least three protesters and wounding many more, an AFP correspondent said.
The bodies of two people were covered with sheets near Cairo’s Raba al-Adaawiya moswue, said the correspondent, adding that another protester had been shot in the head and fell to the ground, parts of his brain spilling from his skull.
Shooting could be heard coming from both the Republican Guard and the ranks of the protesters.
However, an army spokesman denied that the army had opened fire on the demonstrators, claiming that soldiers were only using blank rounds and teargas. It was unclear whether security forces other than the army were present.
Thousands of Islamists took to the streets of Alexandria and Assiut to join protests. Egypt’s liberal coalition issued an “urgent call” for its supporters to take to the streets in response to Islamist protests.
In Damanhour, capital of the Beheira province in the Nile Delta, 21 people were wounded in violence between the factions.
Ehab el-Ghoneimy, manager of the Damanhour general hospital, said three people had been wounded with live bullets, others were wounded with birdshot, rocks, or had been hit with rods.
In the Suez city of Ismailia, soldiers fired into the air as Mursi supporters tried to break into the governor’s office. The Islamists retreated and there were no casualties, security sources said.
The freshly-appointed interim president Adly Mansour ordered the dissolution of the Shura Council, the country’s Islamist-led legislative assembly, according to the official MENA state news agency.
In his first decree since taking the oath of office on Thursday, the 67-year-old also named Mohammed Ahmed Farid as Egypt’s new intelligence chief.
Meanwhile, the African Union suspended Egypt from all of its activities after the overthrow of President Mohammed Mursi on Wednesday.
“As mandated by the relevant AU instruments, the African Union Peace and Security Council decides to suspend the participation of Egypt in AU activities until the restoration of constitutional order,” said Admore Kambudzi, secretary of the council.
Ahead of the rallies, around a dozen low-flying military jets screeched across Cairo, a day after they staged a parade leaving a trail of smoke in the shape of a heart in the sky.
The call for “peaceful protests” across Egypt came from the Brotherhood’s recently-formed National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, which it said were “to denounce the military coup against legitimacy and in support of the legitimacy of President Mursi.”
Thousands of Mursi supporters camped outside the Raba mosque encircled by military vehicles, the demonstrations raised fears of fresh violence after days of bloodshed.
The military said it supported the right to peaceful protest, but warned against violence and acts of civil disobedience such as blocking roads.
NGO Human Rights Watch has called for “prompt, impartial investigations to determine who was responsible for killings” which have marred the protests since late June.
“The available information indicates that both supporters and opponents of Mursi – and possibly security forces as well – were responsible for needless loss of life,” said HRW’s Joe Stork.
In the Sinai, Islamist militants killed a soldier and injured two more early Friday, as gunmen ambushed army and police positions with machine guns and rockets.
Some militants in the Sinai had threatened a violent response after Mursi’s ouster on Wednesday.
Clashes also broke out in the Nile Delta province of Sharqiya, hours after chief justice Adly Mansour, 67, was sworn in on Thursday as interim president until new elections.
The army warned Egyptians against resorting to “exceptional and autocratic measures against any political group”.
“The armed forces believe that the forgiving nature and manners of the Egyptian people, and the eternal values of Islam, do not allow us to turn to revenge and gloating,” added the army, even as security forces rounded up top Muslim Brotherhood officials.
The Islamists accuse the military of conducting a brazen coup against Mursi, Egypt’s first democratically elected but controversial president, following massive protests calling for his ouster.
Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced Mursi’s overthrow on Wednesday night, citing his inability to end a deepening political crisis, as dozens of armoured personnel carriers streamed onto the streets of the capital.
Military police have since arrested Brotherhood supreme leader Mohammed Badie “for inciting the killing of protesters,” a security official told AFP. The Muslim Brotherhood has denied these reports, adding that Badie was attending the Raba mosque demonstration and was expected to give a speech.
Former supreme guide Mahdi Akef was also arrested, state television reported.
Mursi himself was “preventively detained” by the military, a senior officer told AFP hours after his overthrow, suggesting he might face trial.
A judicial source said the prosecution would on Monday begin questioning Brotherhood members, including Mursi, for “insulting the judiciary.” Thirty-five of them have been banned from travel.
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay Friday expressed alarm about reported mass arrests of key members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and urged all sides to respect fundamental freedoms.
Pillay said that international human rights standards – including freedom of speech and assembly – must be upheld.
“I urge all parts of Egyptian society to exercise these rights in a peaceful manner, so as to avoid any further loss of life. I also urge a major effort by all political parties, and the authorities, to deter and punish any acts of vengeance,” she said.
Mursi’s supporters argue the president was confronted at every turn with a hostile bureaucracy left over by former strongman Hosni Mubarak, overthrown in the country’s 2011 uprising.
The deposed leader, who has not been seen since Wednesday, had issued a defiant call for supporters to protect his elected “legitimacy”, in a recorded speech hours after he was toppled.
In Cairo, anger gave way to gloom as thousands of Brotherhood supporters rallied outside a mosque, surrounded by the army.
“It’s a soft military coup. The military was smart, using the cover of civilians,” said one of the protesters, 26-year-old Ahmad al-Sayyed.
Mursi’s rule was marked by a spiraling economic crisis, shortages of fuel and often deadly opposition protests.
On Friday, Egypt’s controversial public prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmoud said he was to resign, days after being reinstated, citing possible conflicts of interest in future prosecutions.
A longtime prosecutor under former dictator Hosni Mubarak, Mahmud had been sacked by Mursi in November as part of a decree in which the Islamist head of state temporarily granted himself sweeping powers.
(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)