A day of nationwide pro- and anti-Morsi protests in Egypt has spilled into violence as armed rival parties scuffled, leaving three people dead, including an American, and nearly 140 injured. Police had to use tear gas to prevent the violence spreading.
In Alexandria, one man died after being shot in the head.
Another, an American student, was reportedly stabbed in the chest
with a knife.
"There were two deaths - an Egyptian, and an American who was wounded during the events. He was filming," said General Amin Ezzeddin, a senior Alexandria security official.
According to Minister of Health Mohamed Mostafa Hamed, 88 people were injured in Alexandria, where the Muslim Brotherhood's headquarters was stormed by anti-Morsi demonstrators and reportedly set on fire.
Egyptian officials have confirmed that a US citizen has been
identified by Kenyon College, Ohio, as 21-year-old student Andrew
Pochter."Pochter was an intern at AMIDEAST, an American
non-profit organization engaged in international education,
training and development activities in the Middle East and North
Africa. The AMIDEAST internship is not a Kenyon program. An
appreciation of Pochter's life will be shared at a later
time," the college said on its website.
Following the news the US State Department has warned Americans against all but essential travel to Egypt and said it would allow some nonessential staff and the families of personnel at the US Embassy in Cairo to leave the country.
A third person was killed in an explosion during an anti-Morsi
protest in the Suez Canal city of Port Said. The blast that also
left 15 injured has been later proved to have been caused by a
home-made hand grenade, Reuters reported citing security sources.
Traces of an explosive substance were found on the bodies of some
of the wounded.
In the capital, thousands of people marched towards Tahrir Square, chanting slogans against President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Marches in Cairo originated from Mostafa Mahmoud Square, Sayeda Zeinab, Al-Azhar Mosque and Shubra, Ahram Online reports.
There have also been reports that a foreign woman was beaten and
dragged for several meters at Cairo's Tahrir Square as she was
taking pictures and shooting videos of the demonstration there,
according to Ahram Online. The scuffle occurred after the woman
was asked to leave because she was a foreigner.
Overall, some 139 people got injured across the country, the minister of health said.
While both Morsi’s supporters and opponents held their rallies on
Friday, the wider opposition coalition is also expected to bring
millions out on Sunday, calling for new elections.
"We are confident the Egyptian masses will go out in their millions in Egypt's squares and streets on June 30 to confirm their will to get the January 25 revolution back on track," the liberal opposition coalition said.
RT’s correspondent in Egypt Bel Trew reported that “the country is worried that there will be further violence after several days of clashes between rival groups, demonstrating either in support of the president or against him.”
The army, which helped protesters overthrow previous President
Hosni Mubarak, has warned that it could step back in to impose
order should violence spin out of control.
“Protest comes amidst a growing security crisis across the country. We’ve already seen several people die, hundreds injured in the days leading up to the protests. We’re seeing an increase of civilians armed and bringing those weapons to protests which has led many to call for the army to step in and secure the nation,” Bel Trew added.
In the light of the rallies, local residents have been withdrawing cash, queuing outside petrol stations and stocking up on food, according to AFP. Many companies said they would close on the first day of the working week in Egypt, Sunday, when the large-scale opposition rally is due to take place.
The Arab world's most influential and one of the largest Islamic movements, the Muslim Brotherhood, has slammed activists campaigning to force the fifth president of Egypt, 61-year-old Morsi, to resign as he celebrates his first year in office.
Morsi’s critics primarily see him as a Muslim Brotherhood
delegate, appointing Islamists in key positions, returning Egypt
“I think it goes without saying, and Morsi himself has partially admitted it, that he has disappointed people. As far as those people who helped to bring Mubarak down or a sizable section of them he’s changed absolutely nothing since he came to power and these protests are to show that the democratic fig leaf is not enough. So what will happen on Sunday will be quite decisive,” author and journalist Tariq Ali told RT.
Ali says Egypt is divided between those who seek an evolution towards democracy, and those who are still in the mind-set of the old regime.
“It’s not the case that he [Morsi] is bereft of support, it’s just that the country is now very sharply divided between those who want some meaningful change and he government which is maintaining continuity with the previous regime and in some instances getting worse,” Ali said.
Morsi’s Islamist supporters emphasize that he derives his
authority from the first free presidential election in Egypt’s
history, and that the challenges he faces, namely corrupt and
inefficient institutions, economic woes and religious strife have
all been inherited.
In a televised speech on Wednesday, Morsi warned that political
polarization threatened to “paralyze” Egypt.
He has also admitted making mistakes and pledged to correct them.
“I have made many mistakes, there is no question. Mistakes can happen, but they need to be corrected,” he said.
Morsi threatened legal action against several prominent figures, claiming some judges were obstructing him, and accused liberal media owners of bias and CBC television owner Mohamed Amin of tax evasion.
However, according to Taqadom Al Khatib of the National
Association for Change, a member of the opposition, Morsi and the
Muslim Brotherhood simply seem to lack any solutions for the
country’s pressing economic and political situation now that they
have managed to secure control. More so, the Brotherhood seems to
be mimicking some of the autocratic behavior of the Mubarak
“We have an economic problem, and many political and social problems. The Muslim Brotherhood have no solutions for these problems. People in Egypt want social justice, freedom and democracy. The Muslim Brotherhood is building a new dictatorship. The government has sent official letters to TV channels, claiming that they have the power to close them down, without any court order,” says Al Khatib.
Al Khatib’s group is one of several calling for early elections. According to Al Khatib, both the US and other Western powers are unlikely to offer any support for Morsi’s ouster, in part as they rely on his government to support policy against Iran in the region.