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Egypt's "Day of Rage" Turned To Bloodshed

By Countercurrents.org

16 August, 2013

Egypt's "Day of Rage" turned to bloodshed as dozens of anti-coup protesters were reported killed while marching in defiance of the military-led regime.

Clashes were reported on Friday in the capital, Cairo, and the cities of Samietta and Ismailia, on a day of protests that were called following the deaths of hundreds as police cleared anti-coup camps on August 14.

The Muslim Brotherhood had called for a "Day of Rage" after Friday prayers in support of the deposed president, Mohamed Morsi. But the marches soon spilled into violence, as regime forces carried through on warnings of using deadly force against protesters it considered a threat.

The Reuters news agency on Friday said eight protesters had been killed in the city of Damietta, while four were killed in clashes with security forces in the Egyptian city of Ismailia, notheast of Cairo.

And in Cairo the Anti-Coup Alliance, which includes the Brotherhood, said at least 25 people were killed and hundreds were injured when security forces opened fire on a march to the central Ramses Square. Those figures had not been confirmed, but Al Jazeera's Simon McGregor Wood said he had seen a stream of injured and some dead coming from the square.

Egypt In A Web Of Violence

With official counts on Thursday night putting the death toll from the previous day’s violence at over 600 and almost 4,000 injured the Cairo carnage sends Egypt into a web of violence as Muslim Brotherhood begins violent retaliation.

At the same time, diplomatic pressure from countries including the US and from international organizations including the UN Security Council is mounting on the Egyptian authorities.

Oil market also felt the pressure. Brent oil prices climbed above $111 per barrel to a four-month high on Thursday on fears violence in Egypt could affect the Suez Canal or spread in the Middle East, where supplies are already disrupted.

However, the Suez Canal and Egyptian ports were operating normally despite the unrest gripping Egypt.

Media reports from Egypt said:

Both pro- and anti-Morsi supporters planned marches through cities in several provinces after midday prayers, and the authorities have decided to use live ammunition to defend themselves and state buildings.

Muslim Brotherhood supporters shouted anti-government slogans. The Brotherhood protesters vowed to show their rage.

Clashes continued for the second day.

On Thursday night, in the street outside Cairo's Zeinhom morgue, families of victims vowed to resist the curfew, refusing to leave the street until their relatives' bodies were accepted by the mortuary.

Morgue officials struggled to cope with the number of bodies arriving at the premises. As a result, dozens of decaying bodies lay in coffins outside, relatives piling them with ice to stop the rot. Many claimed the police had refused to record their deaths as murder.

The town of Meet Salsil witnessed clashes between locals manning informal checkpoints and Morsi supporters on Thursday.

In Kafr Al-Sheikh governorate, security forces halted an attempt by Muslim Brotherhood supporters to break into the police station in Kellin city. Residents in the city also apprehended passengers in a car who were throwing stones at police and passersby.

Seven men, reportedly Muslim Brotherhood members, were arrested attempting to break into the National Security office in the city of Damietta after throwing Molotov cocktails at the building.

In Fayoum, pro-Morsi protestors stormed the Church of St. Tawadros in the village of Desia and set it on fire. Three other churches in the governorate were stormed on Wednesday, in addition to a monastery and a building owned by a bible society.

In the city of Ismailiya, an exchange of fire between police protecting the court building and pro-Morsi protestors left one passer-by injured in the foot. The latest reports suggest the situation in the city is unstable.

In the governorate of Beheira, clashes erupted between residents and pro-Morsi protestors in Kafr Al-Dawwar city. Dozens were injured in the violence. Beheira had seen violent clashes on Wednesday between police and Morsi supporters which left several injured and one person dead.

Assiut governorate saw a policeman killed following clashes at the police station in Sahel Selim. The policeman died after being shot by live ammunition when pro-Morsi protesters broke into the station.

Protestors stormed the local council office in the city of Malawi, setting the building on fire and looting it. Malawi also witnessed an attack on the local museum. The museum guard was killed and the building was looted.

Clashes erupted in the coastal city of Alexandria resulting in the destruction of a local Constitution Party office and a McDonalds restaurant. Pro-Morsi marches also halted traffic along the city’s main seafront road. Further clashes in the city left three people dead. To avoid violence, many shops and restaurants reportedly posted pictures of ousted president Morsi in their windows.

Alexandria had seen bloody violence on Wednesday which left some 25 dead and 287 injured.

In Sinai, armed assailants stormed a checkpoint in the city of Al-Arish, leaving 10 army conscripts dead. A separate attack on the police station in Al-Arish left one policeman dead.

In the vicinity of Cairo, a similar attack on a security checkpoint left two policemen dead.

However, the army receives a huge wave of nationalism, with widespread support among the vast majority of Egyptians who believe the Islamists and their allies are foreign-backed terrorists bent on destroying the country.

Anti-Brotherhood sentiment has deepened further after revenge attacks on policemen and Christians that has solidified the image of Islamists as terrorists.

Citing a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman a Reuters report said:

Muslim Brotherhood and its allies suffered a strong blow from the crackdown. Their central coordination has been lost and the anger is now "beyond control".

The spokesman, Gehad El-Haddad said two of the group's leaders were shot when police raided two protest camps in Cairo.

The bloodshed has made it more difficult for the Brotherhood to persuade its members to stick to peaceful resistance.

El-Haddad, who spoke to Reuters by Skype and said his movement was restricted because of security checkpoints, could not account for the whereabouts of Brotherhood leaders.

"We can't confirm the whereabouts of all of them yet. Two of the top leaders have been shot but are not dead as far as I know. About six of them have lost their sons and daughters," he said. "It's a bad blow, a very strong blow."

International diplomacy

The UN Security Council met in emergency session at the request of France, Britain and Australia. Following the meeting, Argentina's ambassador to the UN, Maria Cristina Perceval, said the Council called for the Egyptian government and the Muslim Brotherhood to exercise "maximum restraint" and to end the violence.

Turkey has recalled its ambassador to Cairo "to discuss the latest developments".

The interim president Adly Mansour responded defiantly to criticism from US president Barack Obama. "Egypt appreciates the faithful positions of the world's nations, but absolutely confirms its full sovereignty," said the presidency in a statement.

To the Egyptian authorities the demand by France, Britain and Australia for an informal UN Security Council discussion session on Egypt was unexpected.

European diplomats for their part said that the move was unavoidable in view of the “horrifying” scenes of violence.

“Originally we were reassured that the death toll would not be high but we are now talking about close to 1,000 people killed – true, not all in the dispersal of the sit-ins but in several incidents; and this too, it should be remembered, not the first attack on supporters of Morsi,” said a senior European diplomatic source in Cairo who requested anonymity.

There were reports of close consultations on an almost daily basis between Egyptian armed forces chief General El- Sisi and US secretary of defense Hagel.

Reports said the two recently discussed the determination of El-Sisi to “impose the rule of law, for fear of having things getting out of hand.” Hagel, according to the same sources, expressed understanding of the Egyptian point of view but was mindful of any “imprudent” action.

The US will review aid to Egypt "in all forms" after president Barack Obama canceled joint military exercises with Egypt next month.

The US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki condemned the "reprehensible attacks" over the past few days against Coptic Christian churches and recent attacks on public buildings in Egypt.

Obama has urged Egypt's authorities to lift a state of emergency and allow peaceful protests but stopped short of suspending $1.3 billion in annual military aid.

Obama said that Morsi was "not inclusive" and that "perhaps even a majority" of Egyptians opposed the Muslim Brotherhood leader.

Meanwhile, the US department of defense will continue to maintain a military relationship with Egypt.

The US secretary of defense had more than 15 phone conversations with El-Sisi since July 2, the day before the army removed Morsi from power. "In my discussion with Minister Al-Sisi, I reiterated that the United States remains ready to work with all parties to help achieve a peaceful, inclusive way forward," said Hagel.

The Arab League expressed its understanding for the measures taken by the Egyptian government.

Britain has summoned Egypt's ambassador to express its "deep concern" at the violence.

French President Francois Hollande has summoned the Egyptian ambassador to France for a meeting.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called for "an immediate halt" to the violence.

Germany also summoned the Egyptian ambassador over the deadly crackdown.

Denmark announced the suspension of development aid to Egypt. "Denmark has two projects in direct collaboration with the Egyptian government and public institutions, and they are now going to be suspended," said Christian Friis Bach, Denmark's development aid minister.

Denmark's aid in the two projects amounts to around 30 million kroner ($5.3 million).

China called for "maximum restraint" from all sides in Egypt. Beijing was "deeply worried by recent developments" in Egypt, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have separately voiced support for the crackdown, saying it was the state's duty to restore order.

Qatar, a key supporter of Muslim Brotherhood, strongly condemned the crackdown in Cairo.

On the other hand, Egyptian diplomats to the UK, France and Germany rejected statements of concern made by the three European states as “intervention in internal Egyptian affairs” and insisted that authorities in Cairo were acting upon serious security concerns on the ground.

Voices of victims

An Egyptian press report quoted the following:

“We have to keep screaming and shouting. We have no other choice,” said Salem, a Muslim Brotherhood member in his late 30s.

Speaking amidst piles of body bags at the Al-Iman Mosque on Makram Ebeid Street in Cairo’s Nasr City district – near the scene of the now dispersed sit-in of Rabaa Al-Adawiya – Salem was pale and angry. A carpenter from Nile Delta, Salem attended the sit-in of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Following the dispersal of the sit-in, Salem was one of the Muslim Brotherhood supporters who took the bodies of those killed to Al-Iman Mosque. He waited for members of the families and friends of the dead to come from across Egypt to identify their relatives.

“We have people who arrived and have managed to identify their relatives. We are waiting for more families to join us. We are working on issuing permits for the bodies to be buried. Yet, we still have to identify many bodies, body parts, because they were burned to a point whereby it is too difficult to identify them,” Salem said.

He spoke hours before law enforcement agents forced the eviction of those inside Al-Iman Mosque. The agents ordered the volunteers and family members out with the bodies they managed to identify and took the unidentified bodies to be kept at the morgue before taken for burial if left unidentified.

“When I look at these bodies I feel angry. I go mad when I hear about the media coverage, whether state-run or private, of the sit-in dispersal by the police. I know that I have no choice but to show my anger,” said Abou Bakr, a student of law. Abou Bakr rushed from his house to the Al-Iman Mosque when he heard the news of the bodies being removed from the scene.

Around the Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque, new burnt bodies, some with body parts missing were still being retrieved at sunset Thursday. A government operation was underway to remove all the debris of the sit-in.

“We suffered endlessly as a result of their presence (protesters). They made our lives a nightmare. I am so glad they (police) dispersed the sit-in. They should have done this a long time ago,” said Nadia, a nearby resident.

Nadia said that she did not have so much sympathy for the victims of the Muslim Brotherhood – not even as she watched the burned bodies being extracted from the debris.

“Their leaders are to blame. They should have asked them to go. We heard the police warning them repeatedly before they started to attack the sit-in,” Nadia said. “If they wanted to die to defend their criminal leaders than that is their business. The people I feel sorry for are the police officers who had to die to end this sit-in,” she said.

Nadia, a heavily veiled housewife in her late fifties, and her husband, Ali, a retired civil servant, said they hope the police would not allow any other sit-ins.






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