16 Aug 2013

Egypt’s bloody crackdown continues on ‘Friday of anger’

Protesters and the military clash across Egypt, with reports of heavy gunfire and deaths on both sides, as thousands of pro-Morsi supporters stage a “day of anger”.

Reports coming out of Cairo say there has been heavy gunfire, as thousands of protesters flocked to the city centre chanting “down with military rule”.

Government sources have said at around 50 people were killed across Egypt on Friday as clashes resumed.

Read more: International Editor Lindsey Hilsum blogs on Egypt's murky morality

A Health Ministry official speaking on state television said eight people were killed in the city of Dumyat, north of Cairo. Security officials said all the protesters there were killed by live ammunition when they tried to storm police stations.

An emergency services official said five had been killed in the city of Alexandria, and a further 15 wounded.

A protester was also killed near Ramses Square, security officials said. Egypt’s government said eight policemen had been killed across the country.

A local hospital in the Fayoum area of Cairo said five people had been killed and 70 wounded in clashes.

Friday of anger

Friday prayers have proved a fertile time for protests during more than two years of unrest across the Arab world.

In calling for a “Friday of anger,” the Brotherhood used the same name as that given to the most violent day of the 2011 uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak.

That day marked the protesters’ victory over the police, who were forced to retreat while the army was asked to step in.

In a counter move, the National Salvation Front, a loose liberal and leftist coalition, called on Egyptians to protest on Friday against what it said was “obvious terrorism actions” conducted by the Muslim Brotherhood.

International response

On Friday Germany became the first country to suspend aid money to Egypt. Development Minister Dirk Niebel said the government was suspending €25m euros earmarked for climate and environmental protection projects, and added funding for new development projects will not be approved for the time being.

Germany’s move follows pressure on the US to act over the $1.3bn in aid it gives to the Egyptian military. The White House has, as yet, been reluctant to address suspending the funds.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague has said: “I condemn the use of force in clearing protests and call on the security forces to act with restraint.”

The Taliban has also condemned the violence and called for the restoration of Egypt’s deposed president, Mohammed Morsi.

In a statement signed by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the name under which the Taliban ruled Afghanistan until ousted by a US invasion, they also called on international organisations to take practical steps to stop the violence and “not be satisfied with only condemning this barbaric incident”.

Saudi Arabia, which supports the post-Morsi government, called on the people of Egypt to “stand as one man”.

Saudi King Abdullah said: “I call on the honest men of Egypt and the Arab and Muslim nations… to stand as one man and with one heart in the face of attempts to destabilise a country that is at the forefront of Arab and Muslim history.”

Mass killing

At least 623 people died and thousands were wounded on Wednesday when police cleared out two protest camps in Cairo set up to denounce the military overthrowing of Islamist leader Mohammed Morsi.

Defying criticism from major western allies, Egypt’s army-backed government warned it would turn its guns on anyone who attacked the police or public institutions after protesters torched a government building in Cairo on Thursday.

It was the third mass killing of President Morsi supporters since he was ousted.

‘Pain and sorrow’

The assault left his Muslim Brotherhood in disarray, but it warned it would not retreat in its showdown with army commander General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

A statement from the Brotherhood read: “Despite the pain and sorrow over the loss of our martyrs, the latest coup makers’ crime has increased our determination to end them”.

The Brotherhood accuses the military of staging a coup when it ousted President Morsi. Liberal and youth activists who backed the military saw the move as a positive response to public demands.

Read more: Dozens killed as pro-Morsi protest camps cleared

Signalling his displeasure at the worst bloodshed in Egypt for generations, US President Barack Obama said on Thursday normal cooperation with Cairo could not continue and announced the cancellation of military exercises with Egypt next month.

“We deplore violence against civilians. We support universal rights essential to human dignity, including the right to peaceful protest,” he said, taking a brief break from his holidays to deliver the sharp rebuke.

Read more: US relations with Egypt 'cannot continue as usual', says Obama