Hundreds of thousands of supporters and opponents of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi gathered in Cairo and Alexandria yesterday, two days after similar gatherings led to nationwide clashes that claimed more than 30 lives.
The huge crowds, who stayed out on the streets until the early hours, raised the risk of further violence while a military- driven plan to resolve the political crisis remained mired in mistrust and confusion.
Protesters opposed to Morsi crammed into Cairo’s Tahrir Square and at the presidential palace in a festive atmosphere.
Unlike Friday there were no running street battles with Morsi’s supporters and soldiers, despite a much bigger turnout.
Those who backed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood movement concentrated in vast numbers outside a mosque in the north-east of the city, and outside the Republican Guard barracks where Morsi was being held and three people were killed on Friday.
“We will not leave until Morsi returns. Otherwise we’ll die as martyrs,” said Hanim Ahmad Ali Al-Sawi.
Morsi was toppled on Wednesday in a takeover the military denied was a coup. The army said it stepped in to enforce the will of millions of Egyptians who rallied on June 30 demanding his resignation. But while Morsi’s ouster was met with scenes of jubilation, it angered Islamists who held protests on Friday in which some 1,400 people were wounded in addition to those killed.
In Alexandria, where 14 people died on Friday, clashes broke out again, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.
The violence across the Arab world’s most populous state saw rival factions fighting street battles in central Cairo and many others cities and towns.
Egypt’s allies in the West, including main aid donors the US and the EU and in Israel, with which Egypt has had a US-backed peace treaty since 1979, have looked on with increasing alarm. As darkness fell, anti-Morsi demonstrators packed Tahrir Square, which holds 350,000, spilling out into streets and squares.
For many Islamists, the overthrow of the first freely elected president was a bitter reversal that raised fears of a return to the suppression they endured for decades under autocratic rulers like Hosni Mubarak, himself toppled in the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.
The transitional authorities had been set to appoint liberal politician Mohamed ElBaradei, a favourite of young anti- Morsi protest leaders However, last night it emerged that Social Democratic lawyer Ziaad Bahaa el-Din is likely to be appointed interim prime minister.
ElBaradei, whose initial nomination for the post angered a key Islamist party, will probably be appointed interim deputy president instead.
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