Egypt’s Is­lamists vow new protests

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AGEN­CIES in Cairo AFP— AP

Sup­port­ers of ousted Egyp­tian pres­i­dent Mo­hammed Morsi an­nounced new demon­stra­tions on Sun­day as the coun­try grew in­creas­ingly po­lar­ized and the death toll in four days of vi­o­lence topped 750.

The fresh protests come af­ter a vi­o­lent stand­off be­tween Is­lamists and se­cu­rity forces at a mosque in cen­tral Cairo on Satur­day that briefly turned the area into a bat­tle­ground.

Se­cu­rity forces traded fire with gun­men in­side the alFath mosque be­fore even­tu­ally drag­ging pro­test­ers out­side, where an­gry mobs awaited them, chant­ing “ter­ror­ists”.

The In­te­rior Min­istry said 385 peo­ple in­side the mosque had been ar­rested, and the govern­ment gave new death toll fig­ures that brought the num­ber of dead in four days to 751.

De­spite the vi­o­lence, the Anti-Coup Al­liance of Morsi sup­port­ers said they would hold sev­eral ral­lies in Cairo and else­where.

The an­nounce­ment sug­gested there was no end in sight to the street con­fronta­tions that have gripped Egypt since Morsi’s ouster.

There was re­newed spec­u­la­tion that the govern­ment would move to ban Morsi’s Mus­lim Brother­hood, al­though the mil­i­taryin­stalled in­terim pres­i­dency ap­peared to dis­miss the idea.

“We’re not into the ef­fort of dis­solv­ing any­one or pre­vent­ing any­one” from tak­ing part in pol­i­tics, pres­i­den­tial ad­viser Mustafa Hegazy said on Satur­day.

Morsi was de­posed by the mil­i­tary on July 3 in what his sup­port­ers call a coup, but his op­po­nents deem a pop­u­lar up­ris­ing like the one that over­threw then- pres­i­dent Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

The ouster and the sub­se­quent blood­shed have drawn mount­ing in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism.

On Satur­day, Ger­many and Qatar jointly con­demned the “bru­tal vi­o­lence”, and United Na­tions chief Ban Ki-moon urged “max­i­mum re­straint”.

Their crit­i­cism came as se­cu­rity forces sur­rounded the al-Fath mosque in Cairo’s Ram­ses Square, where Is­lamists were shel­ter­ing.

They had en­tered the mosque a day ear­lier, turn­ing it into a makeshift mor­tu­ary for dozens of pro­test­ers killed on Thurs­day.

At first, se­cu­rity forces tried to per­suade the pro­test­ers to leave, but by Satur­day af­ter­noon, the sit­u­a­tion turned vi­o­lent.

Po­lice traded fire with gun­men in­side the mosque, leav­ing bul­let holes in its minaret.

Even­tu­ally, they dragged Is­lamists from the mosque, fir­ing in the air to keep at bay an­gry civil­ians armed with sticks and iron bars who tried to beat the pro­test­ers.

On Satur­day af­ter­noon, the govern­ment said 173 peo­ple had been killed in 24 hours, in ad­di­tion to 578 killed on Wed­nes­day, when po­lice cleared two pro-Morsi protest camps.

Among those killed on Fri­day was Ammar Badie, a son of the Brother­hood’s spir­i­tual leader Mo­hammed Badie.

Prime Min­is­ter Hazem el- Be­blawi, who leads the mil­i­tary-backed govern­ment, said that au­thor­i­ties had no choice but to use force in the wake of re­cent vi­o­lence.

The In­te­rior Min­istry said it had ar­rested 1,004 Brother­hood “ele­ments” dur­ing the un­rest, and on Satur­day, se­cu­rity sources said the brother of al- Qaida chief Ay­man al- Zawahiri, who planned to bring in armed groups to pro­vide sup­port to those holed up in­side the mosque, had been de­tained.

“We had to take mea­sures to con­front ter­ror against the peo­ple,” For­eign Min­is­ter Na­bil Fahmy said.

But in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism mounted.

On Satur­day, Bri­tish For­eign Sec­re­tary Wil­liam Hague called his Egyp­tian coun­ter­part to ex­press Lon­don’s “con­dem­na­tion of all acts of vi­o­lence, whether dis­pro­por­tion­ate use of force by the se­cu­rity forces or vi­o­lent ac­tions by some demon­stra­tors”.

The US em­bassy in Cairo said it would stay closed on Sun­day, a work­ing day in Egypt, cit­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of fresh demon­stra­tions nearby.

But the in­ter­na­tional re­sponse has not been uni­formly crit­i­cal. Saudi Ara­bia and Jor­dan said they backed Egypt in its fight against “ter­ror­ism”.

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