The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's website has reported that around 120 people were killed and 4,500 were injured on Saturday when security forces opened fire on a protest by supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi in Cairo. Egyptian newspaper AlMasry AlYoum has reported around that around 75 people were killed.
Watch Egyptian report on clashes
Neither of the reports were confirmed and Health Ministry spokesman Khaled el-Khateeb told The Associated Press that a government hospital near the clashes has received so far 21 dead, and 180 wounded. The difference could not be immediately reconciled. In Alexandria, nine Egyptians were killed and 72 were injured Fridy in clashes between supporters and opponents of Morsi, Egypt's MENA news agency reported.
- Morsi detained over Hamas contact
- US sidesteps decision whether to cut off aid to Egypt
- Egypt: Protesters gather to demand Morsi's ouster
The violence erupted on the fringes of a round-the-clock vigil being staged by backers of Morsi, who was ousted from power earlier this month by Egypt's military following mass protests against his first year in office.
Army clashes with Morsi supporters (Photo: Reuters)
Al Jazeera's Egypt television station showed medics desperately trying to revive casualties arriving at a Brotherhood field hospital at a sit-in at Rabaa al-Adawiya, a mosque in northeast Cairo.
Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad said the shooting started shortly before pre-dawn morning prayers on the fringes of a round-the-clock vigil being staged by backers of Morsi, who was ousted by the army more than three weeks ago.
"They are not shooting to wound, they are shooting to kill," Haddad said. "The bullet wounds are in the head and chest."
Barricades in Cairo (Photo: Reuters)
El-Haddad said police started firing repeated rounds of tear-gas at protesters on a road close to the mosque sometime after 3 am (0100 GMT). Shortly afterwards, live rounds started flying, hitting people at close range.
The number of those injured or killed remains unclear. Al Jazeera and the Muslim Brotherhood reported that 220 people were killed and 4,500 were injured, with the Brotherhood's website claiming the deaths were a result of a "massacre by security forces."
Brothehood: Protesters shot in head, chest (Photo: Reuters)
On the otherhand, an Egyptian doctor said the death toll from clashes with security forces was 38 or higher.
Mikkia, the field hospital doctor, said 38 people had been killed, and that most of the casualties had wounds to the upper part of the body. He said the number of dead is likely to be higher because other casualties were transported to different hospitals.
At the makeshift morgue at the sit-in, supporters chanted "The people want to execute the butcher," referring to army chief and Defense Minster Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, as they ushered the dead out to the hospitals.
In footage broadcast on Al-Jazeera Mubashir Misr TV, the bodies of more than 12 men shrouded in white cloth were laid out on the floor of the field hospital. Pools of blood colored the floor red.
The state news agency MENA quoted an unnamed senior security official saying that the security forces had not used gunfire against the protesters, only tear gas. Early Saturday, he said security forces tried to prevent fighting between residents of the area and the protesters, and that eight members of the security forces were wounded, including some by birdshot.
A Reuters reporter at the scene saw 20 bodies under white sheets laid out on the blood-splattered floor of the Brotherhood's field hospital. Other bodies had been taken to different hospitals and as many as 1,000 people had been injured, Haddad, the Brotherhood spokesman said.
Street clashes (Photo: Reuters)
The sit-in will be ended "in the framework of the law," Egypt's Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim said early Saturday.
In a telephone interview with satellite television station Al-Hayat, he was asked about the sit-in at Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya square.
Tens of thousands of Morsi's supporters have been camped out there since the army ousted him on July 3, as part of their campaign to get him reinstated.
Asked if the army or police planned to break it up, he acknowledged there had been complaints from local residents, adding "...there will be decisions from the prosecutor soon, and this situation will be ended."
But it would be ended "in the framework of the law," he said.
The contradicting reports of bloodshed came the day after supporters and opponents of Morsi staged mass rival rallies across the country, bringing hundreds of thousands into the streets and laying bare deep divisions within the Arab world's most populous country.
There was no immediate word from the security forces about what they thought had happened at Rabaa early Saturday.
Meanwhile, the head of Egypt's Central Statistics Bureau General Abu Bahar Jundi spoke with Egypt's Al Ahram website and said that around 35 million people took to the streets Friday. Egyptian army officials put the number at around 30 million.
30-35 million take to streets (Photo: Reuters)
"The Brothers stole our revolution," said Salah Saleh, a horse trainer, voicing widespread criticism that Mohamed Morsi and his allies refused to share out power when they took office and then failed to tackle Egypt's many economic and social woes. "They came and sat on the throne and controlled everything."
Pro-army demonstrations were planned across Egypt Friday, including the second city Alexandria, while Morsi's backers also announced widespread rallies, with 34 in the Cairo area alone.
"It is either victory over the coup or martyrdom," said senior Brotherhood politician Mohamed El-Beltagy, addressing the main pro-Morsi rally in the sun-baked Egyptian capital.
Confrontation appeared inevitable following a month of clashes in which close to 200 people, mainly supporters of Morsi, have been killed. Many Egyptians feared the worse.
"I'm staying home all day, it's too dangerous to work. I didn't think things in Egypt could get this bad, but every day you hear about clashes and deaths," said Shadi Mohamed, a 22-year-old taxi driver. "Egypt is a disaster."
There is deepening alarm in the West over the course taken by the country of 84 million people, a pivotal nation between the Middle East and North Africa and recipient of $1.5 billion a year in mainly military aid from the United States.
Signaling its displeasure at recent events, Washington said this week it had delayed delivery of four F-16 fighter jets to Cairo and called on the Egyptian army to exercise "maximum restraint and caution" during Friday's rallies.
The army has threatened to "turn its guns" on those who use violence, while the Brotherhood has warned of civil war, denying suggestions it was provoking troubles.
Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, however, said on Thursday the Obama administration did not intend to rule on whether Morsi's overthrow constituted a coup, wording that would have triggered the cutoff of US aid.
Witnesses said army helicopters had dropped flyers at the pro-Morsi vigil calling on people to refrain from violence. The Brotherhood says it is the authorities themselves who have stirred up violence to justify a looming crackdown.
Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi delivered his call for rallies on Wednesday in full military uniform and dark sunglasses. He was appointed by Morsi in a bid by the president to rein in Egypt's powerful military, but Sisi turned against him after a year in which the economy floundered and support for the Brotherhood fell.
He has appointed an interim government tasked with preparing for fresh parliamentary elections in about six months to be followed by a new presidential ballot.
The Tamarod ("Rebel") youth movement that helped rally millions in anti-Morsi street protests before the army moved against him, stressed its support for Sisi on Friday.
"The Tamarod movement affirms the mandate given by the Egyptian people to the armed forces to carry out the law with speed, justice and resolve," it said in a statement.
Reuters and AFP contributed to this report
- Receive Ynetnews updates
directly to your desktop