Death toll in Egypt shooting rises to 51

2013-07-08 16:44

Cairo – At least 51 people were killed today when demonstrators enraged by the military overthrow of Egypt's elected Islamist president said the army opened fire during morning prayers outside the Cairo barracks where Mohamed Morsi is believed to be held.

But the military said "a terrorist group" tried to storm the Republican Guard compound and one army officer had been killed and 40 wounded. Soldiers returned fire when they were attacked by armed assailants, according to a military source.

In the deadliest incident since Morsi's removal, emergency services said more than 430 were wounded.

Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood urged people to rise up against the army, which they accuse of a military coup to topple the leader, threatening an escalation in Egypt's political crisis.

At a hospital near the Rabaa Adawiya mosque where Islamists have camped out since Morsi was toppled on Wednesday, rooms were crammed with people wounded in the violence, sheets were stained with blood and medics rushed to attend to the wounded.

"They shot us with tear gas, birdshot, rubber bullets – everything. Then they used live bullets," said Abdelaziz Abdel Shakua, a bearded 30-year-old who was wounded in his right leg.

As an immediate consequence of the clash, the ultraconservative Islamist al-Nour party, which initially backed the military intervention, said it was withdrawing from talks to form an interim government for the transition to new elections.

A spokesperson for the interim presidency, Ahmed Elmoslmany, said work on forming the government would go on, though Nour's withdrawal could seriously undermine efforts at reconciling rival factions: "What happened will not stop steps to form a government," he said.

The military has said that the overthrow was not a coup, and it was enforcing the will of the people after millions took to the streets on June 30 to call for Morsi's resignation.

But pro- and anti-Morsi protests took place in Cairo, Alexandria and other cities, and resulted in clashes on Friday and Saturday that left 35 dead.

It leaves the Arab world's largest nation, of 84 million people, in a perilous state, with the risk of further enmity between people on either side of the political divide while an economic crisis deepens.

A Reuters journalist at the scene saw first aid helpers attempting mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on a dying man.

Al Jazeera's Egypt channel showed footage from inside a makeshift clinic near the scene of the violence, where Morsi supporters attempted to treat bloodied men.

Seven dead bodies were lined up in a row, covered in blankets and an Egyptian flag. A man placed a portrait of Morsi on one of the corpses.

Footage broadcast by Egyptian state TV showed Morsi supporters throwing rocks at soldiers in riot gear on one of the main roads leading to Cairo airport.

Young men, some carrying sticks, crouched behind a building, emerging to throw petrol bombs before retreating again.

State-run television showed soldiers carrying a wounded comrade along a rock-strewn road, and news footage zoomed in on a handful of protesters firing crude handguns during clashes.

The rest of the city was, for the most part, calm, though armoured military vehicles closed bridges over the Nile to traffic following the violence.

The military overthrew Morsi on Wednesday after mass nationwide demonstrations led by youth activists demanding his resignation. The Brotherhood denounced the intervention as a coup and vowed peaceful resistance.

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