Morsi backers, opponents clash; 30 die

Stones, fireworks, bullets fly in battle on bridge in Cairo
2013-07-06T00:00:00Z Morsi backers, opponents clash; 30 dieThe Associated Press The Associated Press
July 06, 2013 12:00 am  • 

CAIRO - Enraged Islamists pushed back Friday against the toppling of President Mohammed Morsi, as tens of thousands of his supporters took to the streets vowing to win his reinstatement. They clashed with their opponents in violence that killed 30 and wounded more than 200 nationwide.

In a battle on a bridge over the Nile River in Cairo, gunfire rang out and flames leaped from a burning car as the rival camps threw volleys of stones and fireworks at each other. Military armored vehicles raced across the bridge in a counterattack on Morsi's supporters.

The clashes accelerated after four supporters of the president were killed when troops opened fire on their rally - and after a dramatic appearance by the supreme leader of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood. He defiantly proclaimed that his followers would not give up street action until the return of the president, swept out of power days earlier by the military.

"God make Morsi victorious and bring him back to the palace," Mohammed Badie proclaimed before cheering supporters at a Cairo mosque in his first appearance since the overthrow. "We are his soldiers. We defend him with our lives."

Badie said it was a matter of honor for the military to abide by its pledge of loyalty to the president, in what appeared to be an attempt to pull it away from its leadership.

"Your leader is Morsi. ... Return to the people of Egypt," he said. "Your bullets are not to be fired on your sons and your own people."

Hours later, Badie's deputy, Khairat el-Shater, considered the most powerful figure in the organization, was arrested in a Cairo apartment along with his brother on allegations of inciting violence, Interior Ministry spokesman Hani Abdel-Latif told The Associated Press.

After the speech, a large crowd of Islamists surged across 6th October Bridge over the Nile toward Tahrir Square, where a giant crowd of Morsi's opponents had been massed all day. Battles broke out there and near the neighboring state TV building.

Morsi supporters shielded themselves from flying stones and fireworks with sheets of metal. A car burned at the top of an exit ramp amid the sounds of automatic weapons and shotguns.

"They are firing at us. Sons of dogs! Where is the army?" one Morsi opponent shouted as another was brought to medics with his jeans soaked in blood from leg wounds. At least three people were killed at the bridge.

Across the country, clashes erupted as Morsi supporters tried to storm local government buildings or military facilities, battling police or Morsi opponents. At least 30 people were killed throughout the day in Egypt, with 210 wounded, Health Ministry official Khaled el-Khatib told The Associated Press.

Islamists descended on an anti-Morsi rally, opening fire with guns in the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria, where at least 12 people were killed, mostly Morsi opponents, emergency services official Amr Salama said. One man was stabbed and thrown from the roof of a building by Morsi supporters after he raised an Egyptian flag and shouted insults against the ousted president, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene.

The State Department condemned the violence and called on all Egyptian leaders to denounce the use of force and prevent further bloodshed among their supporters.

"The voices of all who are protesting peacefully must be heard - including those who welcomed the events of earlier this week and those who supported President Morsi," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement. "The Egyptian people must come together to resolve their differences peacefully, without recourse to violence or the use of force."

Col. Ahmed Ali, a spokesman for the armed forces, said the Muslim Brotherhood was trying to "pick a fight" with the army and "drag it to a clash in order to send a message to the West that what happened in the country is a coup and that the military is cracking down on the peaceful protesters."

That mirrored a statement from an umbrella group of Morsi opponents - including the National Salvation Front and youth groups. The group urged the public to take to the streets immediately "to defend popular legitimacy" against what they called a "malicious plot" by the Brotherhood.

Islamists vowed to show by their numbers and the turmoil that the military had made a mistake by removing Morsi on Wednesday night. The action followed mass demonstrations for four days this week by the president's opponents in the biggest rallies the country has seen.

"The military got itself in a trap by taking one side. Now they see the masses in the streets and now they realized that there are two peoples," Hamada Nassar, a figure from the hard-line former militant group, Gamaa Islamiya, told AP.

An interim president - senior judge Adly Mansour - was sworn in Thursday, and a Cabinet of technocrats is to be formed to run Egypt until new elections can be held, although officials have not said when that will be. Mansour dissolved the interim parliament - the upper house of the legislature - which was overwhelmingly dominated by Islamists and Morsi allies. He also named the head of General Intelligence, Rafaat Shehata, as his security adviser.

"Your leader is Morsi. ... Return to the people of Egypt. Your bullets are not to be fired on your sons and your own people."

Mohammed Badie the Muslim Brotherhood's General Guide

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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