Egypt mosque besieged as Islamists prepare fresh demos
Supporters of Egypt’s ousted President Mohammed Morsi on Friday march towards Old Cairo as they carry the coffin, covered with a national flag, of their colleague who was killed during Wednesday’s clashes in Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
CAIRO – Egyptian security forces surrounded a Cairo mosque full of supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi on Saturday as protesters planned fresh marches after street battles that left more than 80 dead.
The tense standoff at the Al-Fath mosque came after bloody clashes that killed 83 people across the country and resulted in the arrest of more than 1,000 alleged supporters of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.
The crackdown has divided Egyptians as never before in recent history, splintering the army-installed government and inviting international censure.
One protester said nearly 1,000 people were trapped in the mosque, which had earlier held the bodies of more than 20 people killed in Friday’s clashes.
Soldiers had offered to evacuate the women but insisted on questioning the men, which the protesters refused, a demonstrator on the scene said.
Both sides accused the other of opening fire but the gunfire then ended, one person inside the mosque told AFP.
“Thugs tried to storm the mosque but the men barricaded the doors,” she said.
Security officials quoted by the official MENA news agency said that “armed elements” had been shooting at security forces and police from inside the mosque.
Morsi’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) pleaded for another “massacre” to be avoided after at least 578 people were killed across the country Wednesday when police cleared protest camps set up by loyalists of the former president deposed by the military on July 3.
It was not possible to verify the numbers in the mosque independently.
The latest unrest started as Morsi supporters emerged from mosques in the capital to protest in what they billed as a “Friday of anger” following Wednesday’s bloodbath.
Violence erupted almost immediately, with gunshots ringing out in Cairo and security forces firing tear gas.
In the capital, a man leapt off a bridge near a police station to escape shooting as police armoured vehicles advanced on protesters, witnesses said.
An AFP correspondent counted at least 19 bodies in one Cairo mosque, while witnesses said more than 20 corpses had been laid out in a second mosque.
Elsewhere in Egypt, 10 people were killed by security forces and dozens injured in the canal city of Suez when they gathered to protest in defiance of the curfew.
Their deaths brought to 83 the number killed in nationwide violence although the FJP spoke of 130 dead in Cairo alone.