Amid violence, seemingly growing number of Egyptians weary of army rule

By PETER SMITH, SPECIAL TO THE JERUSALEM POST
August 18, 2013 03:13

Incensed Morsi supporters insist high death toll hasn’t sapped their intent to continue protesting for at least another week; increasing number of Egyptians think army, interim gov't will regret dispersing protest camps.

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Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi.

Morsi supports hold posters in Cairo 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

CAIRO – At least 95 people died in central Cairo on Friday, as Egypt’s fast-deteriorating security situation took another turn for the worse.

Street battles raged across a number of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods after tens of thousands of supporters of former president Mohamed Morsi heeded calls to march on a downtown square as part of a “Day of Rage,” following Wednesday’s massacres.

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Many Cairenes feared that Friday – the traditional day of protest in Arab countries – would see further bloodshed.

In the early hours before noon prayers, residents stocked up on essentials, secured apartment building entrances and settled in for another barrage of awful news.

By early afternoon, the bridges spanning the Nile River and main thoroughfares leading to Ramses Square (just to the north of Tahrir Square and next to Cairo’s principal train station) were swamped with crowds, chanting their fury at the security forces.

“The army and the police are one dirty hand,” they shouted.

“Sisi, killer!” they roared, registering their wrath at the army chief who green-lit Morsi’s overthrow.

Many in the crowd – bearded men and fully veiled women – conformed to the Islamist profile, but others in the peaceful throng processing across the May 15 Bridge in the blisteringly hot afternoon sun were hardly natural Morsi supporters.

“I never liked Morsi or the Muslim Brotherhood, but I want democracy, and not the army in charge,” engineering student Muhammad Fathy said.

Crossing the bridge on the approach to the square, the marchers soon came under attack from residents and local thugs – often thought to be in league with the police – in the apartment buildings on either side of the road. Birdshot, stones and the occasional live bullet came raining down on the tightly knit pack.

Amid the screams of casualties, several marchers took pistols from their bags and unraveled prayer mats, revealing their rifles. A fierce gun battle ensued, while most in the march went streaming back over the river.

Across the city, such exchanges between Morsi supporters and fiercely pro-military local residents continued largely unimpeded.

Police officers had retreated to their stations and withdrawn their detachments from outside most embassies for fear that isolated units would be open to revenge assaults.

In their absence, neighborhood watches brandishing sticks and machetes patrolled the streets, questioning unfamiliar faces and blocking the roads off to cars.

In Ramses Square, clashes continued into early evening until the remaining Morsi protesters, including dangerous militants – according to security forces – sought sanctuary in the enormous al-Fath mosque.

Incensed Morsi supporters insist the high death toll hasn’t sapped their intent to continue protesting for at least another week, but the attacks from local residents add another deeply disturbing dimension to Egypt’s strife.

Ahmed, a security guard at a bank, is one of what appear to be an increasing number of Egyptians who think the military and the interim government will live to rue the day they dispersed the protest camps.

“I’m 50 years old and this is the worst violence I’ve ever seen. I wish we could go back to two months ago,” he said.


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