Unrest worsensUS to continue aid
Egypt’s worsening political crisis seems likely to provoke further bloodshed after 51 people were killed when soldiers opened fire on a crowd of supporters of ousted President Mohamed Mursi on the eve of the holy month of Ramadan.
Eyewitnesses have told Fairfax Media that army soldiers starting shooting at a large crowd of Mursi supporters who had gathered outside the military barracks where the ex-president is being held. They claim they were participating in morning prayers after 4am on Monday.
“There were shots from both sides,” said Ola Mohamed, a 53-year-old housewife who said she had maintained an all-night vigil outside the barracks with thousands of other Mursi supporters.
“It was not just the soldiers inside the barracks, the police outside, on the road, were shooting at us. There was a lot of teargas.”
Mrs Mohamed also claimed that she saw one soldier shot dead by his commanding officer because he had refused to fire on the crowd.
“I saw five women lying dead, they were shot through the head, in the back, and I saw some dead children.”
Tamin Farg Ramadan, 25, who teaches Hebrew at Al-Azhar University, was wounded when a shotgun pellet clipped his nose.
“The shots began as we were in the second part of the prayer, I heard people screaming Allahu Akbar [God is Great] and I knew there was something wrong,” said Ramadan.
“When I ran to that part of the demonstration, I started hearing shots, and I saw bodies on the ground, people falling next to me.”
The military offered conflicting reports, with chief spokesman Ahmed Ali saying that at 4am armed men attacked troops in the area around the Republican Guard compound.
“The armed forces always deal with issues very wisely, but there is certainly also a limit to patience,” Mr Ali told a crowded news conference, at which he presented what he said was video evidence, some of it apparently taken from a helicopter.
Emergency services said 435 people were wounded.
There was pandemonium at the main hospital in Nasr City to receive the wounded, with hundreds of wounded spilling out of the casualty wards into hallways crowded with distraught and grieving relatives.
“This was the bloodiest day in my tears as an orthopaedic surgeon at this hospital,” Dr Haythem Awad told Fairfax Media. “I am sure that from the people I treated today, there will be more dead than they (the army) is admitting.”
Dr Awad said one of the patients he treated had been shot twice in the foot and lower leg.
“He was actually hiding behind a tree, and it tells me that there were a lot of bullets in the air, they were not just aiming at a few who were trying to cause trouble.”
‘Pleased’ with shootings
While Dr Awad was being interviewed, he was interrupted by an unnamed passer-by who shouted that he was pleased that the army had fired on the demonstrators.
“This will teach them,” the man shouted. “I am very happy this has happened.”
Al Jazeera’s Egypt channel showed footage from inside a makeshift clinic near the scene of the violence, where Mursi 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 Mursi on one of the corpses.
Footage broadcast by Egyptian state TV showed Mursi 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.
Footage posted on YouTube on Monday showed a man on a rooftop wearing what appeared to be a military helmet opening fire with a rifle five times, apparently in the direction of a crowd in the street below.
In the video clip, which could not be independently verified, two bloodied men were shown carried away unconscious.
State-run television showed soldiers carrying a wounded comrade along a rock-strewn road, and news footage showed a handful of men who looked like protesters firing crude handguns.
At the nearby Rabah Adawiyah Mosque, which has been the main gathering point for supporters of the ex-president, who are drawn mainly from the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood, tens of thousands of people gathered throughout the day to vent their fury at the massacre.
Chants ringing out among the crowd were “to die like the martyrs, or give us justice”, and “Sisi is a killer, Sisi is a butcher, Sisi is a cheater”, referring to General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the head of the armed forces who led last week’s coup.
Muslim Brotherhood leaders urged their supporters to rise up against the army.
“The massacre at the Republican Guard defies description,” said Mohamed El-Beltagy, a leading member of the Brotherhood’s political wing, on its Facebook page.
As an immediate consequence of the clash, the ultra-conservative Islamist 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 spokesman 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.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.