Egypt Battles Leave 82 Dead
CAIRO (AP) – Egypt’s capital descended into chaos Friday as vigilantes at neighborhood checkpoints battled Muslim Brotherhood-led protesters denouncing the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi and a deadly crackdown. The fiercest street clashes the city has seen in more than two years of turmoil left at least 82 people dead, including several policemen.
The sight of residents firing at one another marked a dark turn in the conflict, as civilians armed with pistols and assault rifles clashed with protesters taking part in what the Muslim Brotherhood called a “Day of Rage,” ignited by anger at security forces for clearing two sit-in demonstrations Wednesday in clashes that killed more than 600 people.
Military helicopters circled overhead as residents furious with the Brotherhood protests pelted them with rocks and glass bottles. The two sides also fired on one another, sparking running street battles throughout the capital’s residential neighborhoods.
There was little hope that an evening curfew would curb the violence as the Muslim Brotherhood called on supporters of the country’s ousted Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, to stage daily protests.
Unlike in past clashes between protesters and police, residents and possibly police in civilian clothing battled those participating in the Brotherhood-led marches. There were few police in uniform to be seen as neighborhood watchdogs and pro-Morsi protesters fired at one another for hours on a bridge that crosses over Cairo’s Zamalek district, an upscale island neighborhood where many foreigners and ambassadors reside.
Across the country, at least 72 civilians were killed, along with 10 police officers, security officials said.
The violence erupted shortly after midday weekly prayers when tens of thousands of Brotherhood supporters answered the group’s call to protest across Egypt in defiance of a military-imposed state of emergency following the bloodshed earlier this week.
Armed civilians manned impromptu checkpoints throughout the capital, banning Brotherhood marches from approaching and frisking anyone wanting to pass through. At one checkpoint, residents barred ambulances and cars carrying wounded from Cairo’s main battleground, Ramses Square, from reaching a hospital.
The scenes highlighted how dangerous the divisions in Egypt have become. At least nine police stations were attacked Friday, officials said. Egypt’s police force was rocked by the country’s 2011 uprising that ousted longtime leader Hosni Mubarak from power and has not fully recovered since.
On Thursday, the Interior Ministry said it had authorized the use of deadly force against anyone targeting police and state institutions. But the threat appeared not to intimidate protesters.
The Brotherhood-led marches in Cairo headed toward Ramses Square, near the country’s main train station. The area is near Tahrir Square, where the army put up barbed wire and deployed 30 tanks outside the Cairo Museum overlooking the square as a buffer between the protesters and a small anti-Brotherhood encampment in the square.