Mohammed Mursi

Mursi supporters vow to press on after bloodshed

Violence continues after at least 72 people killed at Cairo sit-in, drawing international condemnation and calls for end to conflict

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 July, 2013, 7:13pm
UPDATED : Monday, 29 July, 2013, 3:01am

Supporters of Egypt's ousted president Mohammed Mursi have pledged to press their protests after bloody clashes at a Cairo sit-in on Saturday killed at least 72 people.

Sporadic violence was reported nationwide into yesterday, including in the Suez Canal city of Port Said.

Saturday's violence in the capital drew international and domestic condemnation, including from Washington, a key backer of the Egyptian Army.

After the clashes near the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque where Mursi loyalists have been camped out for weeks, the interior minister pledged to disperse the protests soon.

But the violence and the warning did not appear to have thinned the ranks at the Cairo demonstration, where a core group of several thousand protesters remained.

Gehad El-Haddad, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, said demonstrators were angry but "hugely defiant" after Saturday's deaths.

"There are feelings of agony and anger, but also a very strong feeling of determination," he said. "People are hugely defiant.

"For us, if we die, we meet our creator and we did so for a just cause … we die or we succeed."

The violence early on Saturday was the bloodiest incident since Mursi's July 3 ousting by the military after huge demonstrations against his rule.

The deaths came after rival protests both for and against Mursi on Friday.

The Health Ministry said 72 people were killed in Cairo on Saturday, along with nine killed in second city Alexandria a day earlier.

Sporadic violence continued overnight, including in Port Said, where the state Middle East News Agency (MENA) said 15 people were injured during clashes at the funeral of a Mursi supporter killed in Cairo.

MENA and a witness said Mursi supporters opened fire during the funeral, but the Brotherhood said the mourners had come under attack.

A medical source at Port Said's Al-Amiri Hospital said it had five people wounded in the clashes, "including two in critical condition, with bullet wounds to the neck and chest".

In Menufiya, in the central Delta region, Mursi opponents set fire to the Brotherhood headquarters, causing no injuries.

Mursi supporters accused security forces of using live fire against unarmed protesters, but the Interior Ministry insisted that its forces had only fired tear gas.

Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim Moustafa also warned that pro-Mursi demonstrations would be dispersed "in a legal fashion" and "as soon as possible". He called on protesters to "come to their senses".

The violence prompted international condemnation.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, whose country contributes hundreds of millions of dollars in military and economic assistance to Egypt, expressed Washington's "deep concern".

In a statement, Kerry called on the authorities to "respect the right of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression".

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has infuriated Egypt's interim administration by maintaining his support for Mursi, denounced what he described as massacres.

There are feelings of agony and anger, but also a very strong feeling of determination
Gehad El-Haddad, Muslim Brotherhood Spokesman

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in a phone call with his Egyptian counterpart, called for dialogue to end the dispute and urged relevant parties to abandon the use of force to avoid further bloodshed.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague urged the authorities to "cease the use of violence against protesters, including live fire, and to hold to account those responsible".

The violence also prompted domestic criticism, with Vice-President Mohamed ElBaradei, a former opposition activist who joined the transitional government, denouncing "excessive use of force" by the authorities.

The head of Al-Azhar, Egypt's top Sunni Muslim authority, also condemned the deadly violence, calling for an "urgent judicial investigation".

But the National Salvation Front, a coalition of leftist and liberal groups, said Mursi's Brotherhood bore some of the blame for its "provocative approach".

The deaths followed a call from army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who led the coup that ousted Mursi, for a mass show of support for a crackdown on "terrorism".

Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians obliged, demonstrating their continued support for Mursi's ousting.

The former president, elected after the 2011 uprising that toppled one-time leader Hosni Mubarak, is now being held in custody.