Enraged Islamists pushed back Friday against the toppling of President Mohamed Morsi, as tens of thousands of his supporters took to the streets vowing to win his reinstatement and clashed with their opponents in violence that killed 36 and drove the divided nation toward an increasingly dangerous showdown.
Egypt's state TV reported at least two were killed and 70 injured in clashes near Cairo's Tahrir Square between Morsi's supporters and their opponents. Rioters on both sides lobbed stones and torched tires and cars near the square, where celebrations have taking place every night since the ouster. 30 have been killed across Egypt, and more than 500 injured.
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The clashes began after a group of Islamist supporters of Morsi gathered outside the national broadcasting headquarters on the banks of the Nile, about a kilometer (half a mile) from Tahrir Square, where Morsi's liberal opponents have set up camp.
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Television images showed groups of youths running. Some threw fireworks which landed among groups of rival protesters. Some could be seen breaking rocks on the sidewalk – preparing ammunition for stone-throwing.
30 dead, more than 500 wounded nationwide (Photo: AP)
Two hours before the clashes started the Muslim Brotherhood's Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie spoke before a tens of thousands strong protest near a Cairo mosque, and made it clear no compromise will be reached until the coup is reversed.
"Morsi is my president and your president and all Egyptians president, and I'm proud of it," Badie cried to the applause of the Islamist masses.
Badie, the Muslim Brotherhood's most important spiritual leader, roused the crowd, which broke in spontaneous chanting of "Morsi, Morsi."
Friday afternoon clashes in Cairo (Photo: EPA)
"These crowds are out to support religion and to rid Egypt of the attempts to steal the revolution," Badie said.
"We'll remain in the squares in the millions until our elected president, Mohamed Morsi, is carried on our shoulders."
Islamist demonstration (Photo: Reuters)
In his speech, Badie addressed Egypt's army and asked it to "return to Egypt": "Come back to your place in Egyptians' hearts," he implored.
As a military helicopter hovered low over the crowd, Badie called on the army not to fire on its own people and said that demonstrations were stronger than tanks. "Our bear chests are stronger than bullets," he said.
After Badie's speech tens of thousands Islamists started crossing a bridge over the Nile toward Tahrir Square and the national broadcasting headquarters.
Tanks in the streets of Cairo (Photo: EPA)
Fire was burning on the October 6 Bridge, which connects the two banks of the Nile, where clashes erupted betweent eh two sides.
Islamists were seen donning protective helmets and equipping with improvised shields in preparation of the battle with Morsi's opponents, and started lobbing stones.
"They're shooting at us, the dogs, where's the army?" one Morsi opponent shouted, and was later rushed to the hospital with his trousers drenched in blood.
Cairo's Tahrir Square (Photo: Gettyimages)
Before midnight armed vehicles crossed the bridge toward the scene of the clashes, in the first significant attempt to subdue the violence.
Apart from Cairo, demonstrations and clashes were reported across Egypt, including in Alexandria, Ismailia and Suez. In the el-Arish region armed men killed three Egyptian soldiers, and in Giza and Luxor two citizens were killed in clashes. Two more were killed in other cities.
In light of the Sinai Peninsula violence, Egyptian authorities have imposed a curfew in two North Sinai towns on the border with Israel and the Gaza Strip, state television reported on Friday
The curfew applies to the towns of Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah, it said, without elaborating.
Friday's most lethal incident occurred in Cairo, when hundreds of Morsi supporters attempted to break into an army barracks where he is detained, and the army opened fire. Three demonstrators were killed, and several others injured.
The army issued a statement claiming its soldiers did not use live fire against the demonstrators in Cairo, but only blank charges and tear gas.
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