7 Oct 2013

Egypt: 51 dead after war anniversary turns violent

At least 51 people are dead after clashes between security forces and supporters of ousted President Morsi, during a national holiday celebrating the 40th anniversary of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

Crowds of protesters from Egypt‘s two rival factions – supporters of former president, Mohammed Morsi, and backers of the military that deposed him – clashed on Sunday as they gathered to celebrate a national holiday.

But the 40th anniversary celebrations of Egypt’s involvement in the 1973 war against Israel turned violent, with pro-Morsi supporters reportedly firing birdshot and throwing firebombs at police who responded with gunshots and tear gas.

At least 51 people were killed in the protests, mainly in the capital city, and another 268 people were injured throughout Egypt.

Some of Cairo’s neighborhoods resembled combat zones after street battles that raged for hours. Streets were left strewn with debris, and the air was thick with tear gas and smoke from burning fires, as the crack of gunfire rang out.

It was the highest death toll in a single day in violence in Egypt since 14 August when security forces raided two sit-in protest camps by Morsi’s supporters in Cairo, killing hundreds.

You see the Pyramids? The military is like the pyramids, because the Egyptian people are on its side – General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi

An Associated Press photographer saw nine bodies lying on the floor of a clinic in the Cairo district of Dokki, scene of some of the heaviest clashes. Most of the bodies had gunshot wounds to the head or chest.

Even as fighting continued in the streets, the military went ahead with lavish celebrations for the holiday. Military Chief General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and the interim President Adly Mansour attended an entertainment show where pop stars from Egypt and elsewhere sang anthems to the army.

“There are those who think the military can be broken,” General el-Sissi said in an address at the concert. “You see the Pyramids? The military is like the pyramids, because the Egyptian people are on its side.”

Morsi was Egypt’s first civilian and first freely elected president, elected after Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011. But after a year in office, Morsi was faced by massive protests and accusations that his Muslim Brotherhood was taking over power. On 3 July this year, General el-Sissi removed him.

Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies have since been subjected to a fierce crackdown that has jailed more than 2,000 from their ranks.