News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff
At least 42 people were killed in Cairo on Monday, according to medical sources, when Islamist protesters angered by the military overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi were allegedly fired on at the Cairo military barracks where he is being held.
More than 300 were wounded in a sharp escalation of Egypt’s political crisis, and Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood urged Egyptians to rise up against the army, which they accuse of a military coup to remove the elected leader.
In an official statement published by Al-Ahram Arabic news website, the army said an “armed terrorist group” attempted to break into the Republican Guard headquarters in the early hours of Monday and “attacked security forces.”
One officer died and 40 soldiers were injured, including seven in critical condition, the statement said.
However, various international news organizations reporting from the scene quoted witnesses as saying the protestors were unarmed when they were gunned down.
At a hospital near the Rabaa Adawia mosque where Islamists have camped out since Morsi was toppled last Wednesday, rooms were crammed with people wounded in the violence. Many of the sheets and clothes were heavily stained with blood.
The Brotherhood’s official spokesman, Gehad El-Haddad, who is at a pro-Morsi sit-in at a mosque near the scene, said shooting broke out in the early morning while Islamists were praying and staging a peaceful sit-in outside the barracks. AFP reported that the Egyptian prosecution has ordered the shutdown of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party, the Freedom and Justice Party headquarters in Cairo.
As an immediate consequence, the ultra-conservative Islamist Nour party, which initially supported the military intervention, said it was withdrawing from stalled negotiations to form an interim government for the transition to fresh elections. “We wanted to avoid bloodshed, but now blood has been spilled. So now we want to announce that we will end all negotiations with the new authorities,” Nour added.
The rapidly deteriorating situation leaves the Arab world’s largest nation of 84 million people in a perilous state, with the risk of further enmity between people on either side of the political divide while an economic crisis deepens.
Abdelaziz Abdelshakua, from Sharqia Province northeast of Cairo, was wounded in his right leg with what he says was a live round.
“We were praying the dawn prayer and we heard there was shooting,” he said. He said an army officer assured them no one was shooting, then suddenly they were under fire from the direction of the Republican Guard.
“They shot us with teargas, birdshot, rubber bullets – everything. Then they used live bullets.”
Al Jazeera’s Egypt news channel broadcast footage of what appeared to be five men killed in the violence, and medics trying to revive a man at a makeshift clinic at a nearby pro-Mursi sit-in.
A Reuters journalist at the scene saw first aid helpers attempting mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on a dying man. Wounded people were being ferried to the field hospital on motorbikes, given first aid treatment and taken away in ambulances.