17 Aug 2013

Cairo conflict centres on besieged mosque

Police have fired at a Cairo mosque holding hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters. The stand-off has continued throughout the day, with police arresting protestors and closing in on the compound.

A besieged mosque is at the heart of the conflict in Egypt today with the police blockading in hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters. Gunshots have been exchanged, and video from inside shows tear gas cannisters and small explosions. It is believed protestors are still inside the Al-Fath mosque off Ramses Square in Cairo, though police have entered the compound.

The police shot automatic weapons at the minaret and second-floor windows of the mosque where Brotherhood gunmen were allegedly shooting on the security forces. Police have manned all gates to the mosque and have entered the compound. Several Muslim Brotherhood supporters have been arrested and escorted out by police. Others, including women have been escorted out of the mosque into safety.

According to a Reuters witness, a group of about 10 soldiers had been telling people to leave the mosque and that they would be in no danger.

Previously serving as a hospital and then a morgue for protesters killed by the army, it is now a bastion of living Morsi supporters and a focal point for the conflict which has raged in Egypt since 800 Muslim Brotherhood supporters were massacred on Wednesday.

Outside the ring of military vehicles surrounding the mosque, pro-government supporters gathered chanting against the Brotherhood.

A hundred die in day of rage

A hundred were reported dead across Egypt on Friday, with at least 60 killed in Cairo, when the Muslim brotherhood called a day of rage in reaction to Wednesday’s massacre of 800 Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

Up to 29 are believed dead and hundreds injured in Alexandria, Egypt’s second city.

As Channel 4 News reported last night, civil servants seemed under instruction to massage down the figures of the dead with families forced to list the cause of death as suicide or fire when applying for death certificates for killed protestors.

The Egyptian authorities arrested 1,004 “elements” of the Muslim Brotherhood during nationwide protests on Friday, the interior ministry said on Saturday.

The Interior Ministry also said that Brotherhood members had committed acts of terrorism during the demonstrations.

Defence analyst Anthony Tucker-Jones looks at the country's prospects for peace - or civil war

Arguably, after just 12 months in power, the military did not give Morsi's administration sufficient time to turn the country around.

The Muslim Brotherhood, led by its "supreme guide" Mohamed Badee, is now at violent loggerheads with the caretaker administration. It was the administration's refusal to clear the streets of Cairo that in part led to the latest round of bloodshed.

Read more: Why Egypt's future prospects are hanging in the balance


There seems little opportunity for peace, with the Muslim Brotherhood leadership calling for six more days of nationwide protest.

There are reports of civilians turning on the Brotherhood protestors as vigilante pro-government groups form to protect neighbourhoods.

The violence comes after the removal of President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood from government on 3 July.