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Egypt braces for more clashes, new government

July 06, 2013|By Edmund Sanders and Ingy Hassieb
  • Supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi rest at their camp near Cairo University.
Supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi rest at their camp near Cairo… (Manu Brabo / Associated…)

CAIRO -- Egyptians awoke Saturday to an uneasy calm following a spasm of overnight violence as Islamist leaders and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi vowed to continue their campaign to return him to power.

In some of the worst violence seen since 2011, at least 36 people were killed nationwide  Friday and more than 1,000 were injured, according to Egypt’s Health Ministry.

After trying to keep a low profile since removing Morsi on Wednesday, Egypt’s military mounted a stronger presence Saturday to ensure that rival factions were kept apart.

Roads were restricted around the Republican Guard complex, where the Muslim Brotherhood says five of its members were shot Friday and Morsi is believed to be held under arrest.

Soldiers were dispatched to Alexandria, where a dozen people were killed in some of the most intense clashes, according to Egyptian media.

Most factional leaders in Egypt, including those from the Muslim Brotherhood, called upon their supporters to avoid violence.

But pro-Morsi demonstrators and Islamist groups vowed to continue their mass protests Saturday, raising fears about more bloodshed. They say the army’s removal of Morsi was illegal and a declaration of war on Islam.

“The masses will continue their civilized protests and peaceful sit-ins in Cairo until the military coup is reversed and the legitimate president is restored," a coalition of Islamist groups said in a statement Saturday.

Another group, calling itself Ansar Al Sharia, said it would launch an armed resistance to reinstate Morsi, according to an online statement quoted by Reuters.

In Tahrir Square, the center of the anti-Morsi camp, there was a noticeable shift in mood and atmosphere after Friday night clashes with pro-Morsi supporters. After two days of parties and late-night celebrations over Morsi’s removal, Saturday morning began with rallying marches, chanting and a more militant tone.

Anti-Morsi demonstrators have vowed to defend the central Cairo plaza, which became a  symbol of Egyptian freedom during the 2011 revolution against deposed President Hosni Mubarak. Pro-Morsi forces insist they have a right to occupy the space as well.

Two years ago the two sides were standing together in Tahrir against the Murbarak regime, but Friday night they pelted each other with broken cement and fireworks.

Egypt’s new interim President Adli Mansour, installed by the military Thursday, huddled Saturday with army chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi and political faction leaders to chart the country’s next steps.

Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad said on his Twitter account that the Islamist group is not taking part in any of the discussions.

The military was expected to announce as soon as Saturday a time-table for new elections and a new constitutional-drafting process to replace the one it suspended. Military leaders were also under pressure to announce members of a new temporary coalition government, including a new prime minister.

International concerns mounted about the growing violence.  U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay criticized the army’s arrest of top Muslim Brotherhood leaders.

Sen. John McCain called upon the U.S. to halt the $1.3 billion in aid to Egypt’s military, saying the Obama administration should not condone the overthrow of a freely elected government.

The Obama administration has attempted to stake out a neutral position on Morsi’s ousting and has avoided calling it a military coup to circumvent U.S. laws that would trigger an immediate suspension of American aid.

Separately, a Cairo court on Saturday postponed until Aug. 17 the retrial of Mubarak, who is charged with corruption and responsibility for the deaths of some 850 Egyptian protesters during the 2011 revolt.

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