Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets on Friday in rival mass rallies for and against the army’s overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, who state media said was under investigation for charges including murder. Five people were killed and more than 50 injured during fighting in the second city of Alexandria. A total of more than 200 were hurt in scattered confrontations nationwide, with fears of more bloodshed as night fell.
Reuters In Cairo, huge crowds heeded a call by army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to give him a popular mandate to confront violence unleashed by his July 3 overthrow of Morsi. Sisi’s call, and news of the investigation, signaled a major stepping up of the military’s confrontation with Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement.
The army’s move against Egypt’s first freely-elected president has caused alarm in the West, (especially for Muslim Brotherhood ally Barack Hussein Obama). The country of 84 million people forms a bridge between the Middle East and North Africa and receives $1.5 billion a year in mainly military aid from the United States.
Supporters of Morsi staged mass counter-demonstrations to demand his reinstatement, shrugging off fears of an imminent crackdown. In a sign of Sisi’s rising political star, many clutched posters of the general in uniform, some depicting him alongside former military officers who became Egyptian presidents, Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat.
“The Brothers stole our revolution,” said Salah Saleh, a horse trainer at a central Cairo rally, voicing widespread criticism that Morsi refused to share out power after taking office, and then failed to tackle Egypt’s many problems. “They came and sat on the throne and controlled everything.”
The army has signaled it intends to get tough with the Islamists, who have staged a month-long tent vigil in Cairo.
The Brotherhood emerged from decades in the shadows to win successive elections after Egypt’s 2011 Arab Spring uprising against veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak. It lasted a year in government, during which the economy floundered and Morsi’s popularity slumped, before the army shunted it aside on the back of huge protests.
Many thousands of men, women and children joined Brotherhood supporters at their round-the-clock vigil in northeast Cairo, which is close to army installations but far from Tahrir Square, focal point for the pro-army rally. “It is either victory over the coup or martyrdom,” senior Brotherhood politician Mohamed El-Beltagy told the pro-Morsi rally. “Our blood and our souls for Islam!” the crowds chanted. (I choose martyrdom)
The military had warned it would “turn its guns” on those who used violence. The Brotherhood warned of civil war, accusing the army and hired thugs of stoking trouble to justify a move against the Islamists.
The investigation into Morsi centers on accusations that he conspired with the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas to escape from jail during the 2011 uprising, killing some prisoners and officers, kidnapping soldiers and torching buildings.
Russia Today has an interesting interview with a Muslim Brotherhood baghead: