37 corpses lie in mosque after police, 'thugs' allegedly fire on Cairo protest

Thirty-seven lie dead, most with gunshot wounds, after Egyptian police and 'thugs' allegedly fired on pro-Mursi protest; others vow to defy army

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 July, 2013, 8:08am


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The 37 men had converged on the Egyptian capital from across the nation to show their support for deposed Islamist president Mohammed Mursi. Yesterday, they lay on a mosque's bloodied marble floor, their names and cities of origin scrawled in black marker pen on white body bags.

Mohammed al-Bahi, who died with a faint smile on his face, had a bullet in his chest, medics said. His body was added to the row of corpses soon after the deadly confrontation with police that erupted in the morning.

The 19-year-old business studies student had been camped out at the Cairo sit-in to support Mursi since June 30, just days before the president's overthrow in a military coup.

"How did he die? Look at the smile on his face," said his brother, Abdel Rahman. "He had a cause he was defending. He was not a violent person," whispered Abdel Rahman.

Witnesses say police and "thugs" fired live rounds and birdshot at the pro-Mursi protesters who marched out from their sit-in around the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque.

The police deny using lethal force, but at the makeshift morgue in the mosque, one corpse after another bore gunshot wounds.

Outside the mosque the pro-Mursi protest camp was angry.

Edgy young men, helmeted and wielding clubs, guarded a gauntlet of brick fortifications on the road leading to the scene of the morning's carnage.

They greeted journalists with victory signs and chants of "Sisi is a killer", referring to army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

On Friday, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians had heeded a call by Sisi for a rally to grant him a mandate to crack down on "violence and terrorism".

The military stepped up its campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood on Friday, as it announced the possibility of serious criminal charges carrying the death penalty against Mursi.

The announcement came amid a vast state-orchestrated display of military power, with army helicopters hovering low over a huge throng of flag- waving, pro-military demonstrators in Tahrir Square and soldiers deploying in armoured personnel carriers across the capital.

The crowds had turned out in Cairo and other Egyptian cities in response to a call by Sisi for mass demonstrations that he said would give him a "mandate" to fight terrorism, a phrase widely understood to mean crackdowns on the Brotherhood.

A number of Western and Arab diplomats had called for the military, which has held Mursi incommunicado since his ousting three weeks ago, to release him as a goodwill gesture, in hopes of brokering a compromise that would end the stand-off between Islamists and the military.

That now seems almost impossible, analysts say.

The military and police will eventually move in to break up the Mursi supporters' sit-in, interim interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim said in a news conference, after the deadly clashes.

The Rabaa Al-Adawiya protesters expect that confrontation to be bloody.

"He died today," said Abdel Rahman Bahi of his brother Mohammed. "And now I'm waiting for my turn."

Additional reporting by Reuters, Associated Press