Jul 29, 2013

    Mursi supporters still defiant

    SUPPORTERS of Egypt's ousted president, Mr Mohammed Mursi, pledged yesterday to press ahead with their protests, a day after bloody clashes at a Cairo sit-in killed at least 72 people.

    Sporadic violence was reported nationwide overnight, including in the Suez Canal city of Port Said.

    The Egyptian authorities unleashed a ferocious attack on Islamist protesters early last Saturday, killing at least 72 people in the second mass killing of demonstrators in three weeks and the deadliest attack by the security services since Egypt's uprising in early 2011.

    The attack provided further evidence that Egypt's security establishment was reasserting its dominance after Mr Mursi's ouster three weeks ago, and widening its crackdown on his Islamist allies in the Muslim Brotherhood.

    The tactics - many were killed with gunshot wounds to the head or the chest - suggested that Egypt's security services felt no need to show any restraint.

    "They had orders to shoot to kill," said Mr Gehad El-Haddad, a Brotherhood spokesman. The message was "This is the new regime", he said.

    The killings occurred a day after hundreds of thousands of Egyptians marched in support of the military, responding to a call by its commander for a "mandate" to fight terrorism.

    The appeal by General Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi, who has emerged as Egypt's de facto leader since the military removed Mr Mursi from power, was seen widely as a green light to the security forces to increase their repression of the Islamists.

    In the attack last Saturday, civilians joined riot police officers in firing live ammunition at the protesters as they marched towards a bridge over the Nile. By early morning, the number of wounded people had overwhelmed doctors at a nearby field hospital.

    As the deaths have mounted - more than 200 since the government was overthrown - hopes have faded for a political solution to the stand-off between the military and the Brotherhood.

    The violence left the Brotherhood in an increasingly dire position, facing the prospect of a ban of the kind it suffered before the uprising against then president Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

    AFP, NYT