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Egyptians' 'Sadness And Anger' Drive Violence, As Thousands Face Off Against Police, Security Forces

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CAIRO -- The streets of downtown Cairo erupted in a frenzy of violence on Friday, as protest marches and high emotions brought tens of thousands of people into the city center, where they battled with police and security forces for much of the day.

At least 50 people are already believed to be killed in the ongoing fighting, the second major day of clashes between supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian military, police and their allies.

As the deadly day wound down, the Muslim Brotherhood called for a week of daily protests, a move that all but guarantees the violence will continue.

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Inside the Al-Fath mosque -- near Ramses Square and the city's main train station, the epicenter of the fighting -- reporters counted between 30 and 40 dead bodies as of 6 p.m., one hour before a military-imposed nightly curfew was scheduled to go into effect. Sporadic clashes seemed likely to continue into the night, as residents set up local security committees and blocked roads in neighborhoods all around Cairo.

The violence was almost predetermined on Friday, normally a day of prayer and rest in the Muslim world, but increasingly also one of protest and dissent. An alliance of anti-military, anti-coup organizations had, along with the Muslim Brotherhood, called for Friday to be a "day of rage" and uprising, in the aftermath of the clearing of two Brotherhood-run protest camps earlier in the week. On Wednesday, the military and police had stormed those camps using bulldozers, tear gas and eventually live ammunition. The raids left more than 600 people dead.

By early afternoon Friday, shortly after the end of prayer, the scene downtown had somewhat the appearance of a trap being laid. As pro-Morsi protesters gathered in front of the Fath mosque, and with thousands more set to arrive from across the city, the military sealed off much of downtown with armored personnel carriers. Inside the cordon, the streets were mostly empty, as residents huddled inside largely out of fear of what was to come.

In front of the mosque, several thousand protesters waved flags and set off fireworks while screaming chants against the police and Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the army chief whose forces had kicked out Morsi last month. When a military helicopter swooped low over the street, the crowd pointed to the sky and screamed in unison, "Get out, get out!"

"We know they're going to kill us tonight, and all we ask is that you be our witnesses," said Mustafa Ahmed, a geologist who had come to the mosque out of "anger and sadness" at the previous days' events. "I'm here to demonstrate against the coup and to express my sorrow at the tragedy of Wednesday."

As on previous days, Egyptian state television was rife with videos seeming to show individuals on the pro-Morsi side of the clashes firing at police and civilians with assault weapons. Reporters at the scenes of fighting typically described seeing unarmed protesters, but as the day turned to night, there were increasing reports of armed pro-Morsi supporters rampaging through parts of downtown. Local vigilante groups and gangs of anti-Brotherhood thugs were also reportedly joining in the assault on the protesters.

The number of police officers killed in the country since Wednesday was 67, Reuters reported, a high figure that suggests at least some of the anti-military combatants have been armed. Eight policemen were said to be killed in the various clashes on Friday, the Associated Press reported.

Reprisal attacks have taken place across the country since the clearing of the protest camps, with dozens of Coptic churches reportedly being burnt as well as the police being targeted for brutal slayings. Angry residents of the town of Kerdasa went on a rampage, killing 11 policemen and burning their station down, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

Yet yesterday was generally a day of relative calm and reflection, even as both sides of Egypt's volatile struggle seemed further entrenched in their positions. At a mosque near a leveled sit-in site, where more than 200 bodies had been stacked up and displayed for the media, family members of victims pledged to continue their fight as long as it takes.

At the same time, the Egyptian Ministry of Interior, which oversees the police, announced that they would be issuing their officers live ammunition, with standing orders to shoot anyone who attempted to take over government buildings. A spokesman for the Egyptian Ministry of Defense, Ahmed Ali, told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday that the security forces would continue to use all means at their disposal to quell protests and unrest. "When dealing with terrorism, the consideration of civil and human rights are not applicable," he said.

And Friday, the fighting raged. As it did, Khaled Dawoud, a spokesman for the National Salvation Front, a leading liberal political group that has aligned itself with the military-backed government, resigned his post, saying in a dramatic email to reporters that he could no longer continue to support a regime that continually sought to confront its political opponents by violent means.

Two days earlier, after the deadly clearing of the sit-ins, Dawoud was compelled to write a statement "saluting" the security forces for their work and praising their conduct.

In fact, Dawoud said Friday, he had watched those scenes with "great sadness and pain for all the blood that flowed, and strongly condemn the serious abuses carried out by the security forces."

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From Ken Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch:

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From Reuters:

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AFP reports that King Abdullah has ordered three field hospitals to be dispatched to Egypt, one day after Saudi Arabia affirmed its support for the military's crackdown on pro-Morsi protesters.

Read the full story here.

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According to a statement by the Vatican press office, Pope Francis "continues to follow with growing concern the serious news coming from Egypt and continues to pray for end to violence, and that the parties choose the path of dialogue and reconciliation."

The Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt also released a statement:

The Coptic orthodox church of Egypt is following closely the unfortunate incidences occurring in our nation Egypt and confirms its strong stance with the Egyptian law enforcement, the armed forces, and all of the institutions of the Egyptian people in its confrontation of the violent armed organizations, dark terrorists, both internal and external, the attacks on the government offices as well as our peaceful churches which are terrorizing our citizens both Coptic and Muslim.

These actions stand against all religions, morality, and humanity. We commend the stance of the friendly and loyal countries who understand the nature of these turns of events and we strongly denounce the erroneous reporting that is being broadcasted in the western media. We invite them to review the actual events subjectively instead of legitimizing these bloody terrorist organizations and all its affiliations with international support and political protection while they are attempting to spread devastation and destruction in our dear nation. We only request that the international and western media please report an valid account of the events with accuracy, truth, and honesty.

We send our condolences for all the victims and martyrs of duty that gave their lives, and we pray for the recovery of all the injured and afflicted. We persevere in our strong national unity and repulse any attempts to polarize our nation into a secular conflict. We absolutely reject any complete or even partial foreign interference in the internal national affairs of Egypt and as the hands of evil are extended to burn, kill and destroy; but the hands of God are nearer to protect, strengthen, and build. We have full confidence in the divine intervention that will navigate the Egyptian people in the delicate time of our history to a better tomorrow and a brighter future that will be filled with justice, peace, and democracy that the people of the Nile Valley deserve.

Long live Egypt, free and proud.

The Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt

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From Reuters:

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Reuters has more on the explosion in Benghazi:

A small explosion went off at the Egyptian consulate in Benghazi on Saturday causing some damage to the building, witnesses said. There were no immediate reports of casualties from the blast. Egyptian security forces are conducting a crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood supporters following last month's ousting of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.

Read more here.

-- Eline Gordts

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AFP reports that security forces claim they have cleared the al-Fatah mosque.

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For an excellent account of the violence yesterday in Ramses Square, read Sarah Carr's piece in Mada Masr.

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Ayman Mohyeldin's photos from the al-Fatah mosque earlier this morning.


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egypt A supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and of ousted president Mohamed Morsi runs past a burning vehicle during clashes with security officers close to Cairo's Ramses Square, on August 16, 2013. (VIRGINIE NGUYEN HOANG/AFP/Getty Images)


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Ammar Badie, the son of Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie, was killed yesterday during the clashes in Ramses Square.

--Eline Gordts

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Germany's foreign ministry warned on Saturday that the violence in Egypt could lead to civil war in the country.

From the Associated Press:

Germany's foreign minister says the violence in Egypt could escalate into civil war unless all parties come together to find a political solution for their differences.

Guido Westerwelle told reporters in Berlin that senior figures from all sides should be included in talks to safeguard the stability of Egypt.

Westerwelle spoke Saturday after meeting with the foreign minister of Qatar.

--Eline Gordts

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A wounded boy is treated as he lies on the floor of the Taamin Sehi field hospital during clashes between security officers and supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi, in downtown Cairo, on August 16, 2013. (VIRGINIE NGUYEN HOANG/AFP/Getty Images)

cairo

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Egypt has arrested the brother of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, Reuters reports.

More from AFP:

Egyptian authorities have arrested Mohamed al-Zawahiri, brother of Al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahiri, for supporting ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, a security source told AFP on Saturday.

The brother was arrested in his home district of Giza, adjacent to the capital, the source said.

-- Eline Gordts

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Egypt's Interior Ministry said on Saturday that 173 people died in Friday's clashes, according to Reuters.

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In a provocative move, Egypt's prime minister proposed to ban the Muslim Brotherhood on Saturday.

More from Reuters:

With anger rising on all sides, and no sign of a compromise in sight, Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi proposed the legal dissolution of the Brotherhood - a move that would force the group underground and could lead to a broad crackdown.

"It is being studied currently," said government spokesman Sherif Shawky.

The Brotherhood was officially dissolved by Egypt's military rulers in 1954, but registered itself as a non-governmental organization in March in a response to a court case brought by opponents of the group who were contesting its legality.

Founded in 1928, the movement also has a legally registered political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, which was set up in 2011 after the uprising that led to the downfall of veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

"Reconciliation is there for those who hands are not sullied with blood," Shawky added.

The Brotherhood won all five elections that followed the toppling of Mubarak, and Mursi governed the country for a year until he was undermined by mammoth rallies called by critics who denounced his rule as incompetent and partisan.

Read the full story here.

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ONtv, a private, pro-military channel, appears to be providing a live stream from outside the Al Fateh mosque. The screengrab above shows footage aired earlier this evening.

ontveglive on livestream.com. Broadcast Live Free

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