Seventeen people were reported killed in clashes around Egypt yesterday involving opponents and backers of ousted leader Mohammed Morsi, as well as security forces.
Supporters and opponents of the ousted president clashed hours after three pro-Morsi protesters were killed by army fire.
Tens of thousands of Islamists streamed across a Nile River bridge towards Tahrir Square in Cairo, threatening a showdown moments after the Muslim Brotherhood’s top leader defiantly spoke before a crowd of supporters, vowing to reinstate Morsi and end military rule. General Guide Mohammed Badie’s fiery speech came soon after army troops fired on a pro-Morsi rally
The dramatic appearance by Badie on stage before tens of thousands of supporters in Cairo was his first in public since the president was ousted.
Morsi “is my president and your president and the president of all Egyptians,” Badie proclaimed. “God make Morsi victorious and bring him back to the palace,” he said in the speech, which was partially aired on state TV. “We are his soldiers — we defend him with our lives.”
Badie addressed the military, demanding that they abide by their pledge of loyalty to the president.
“Your leader is Morsi... Return to the people of Egypt,” he said.
Badie’s speech was also aimed at trying to win support within the military against army chief General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the defence minister who announced the president’s removal on Wednesday.
Security officials had reported that Badie was taken into custody soon after the military removed Morsi. Just before Badie’s appearance, the Brotherhood’s political party said on its webpage that he had “been released.” But on stage, Badie denied he was ever arrested.
The military’s earlier shooting threatened to further escalate Egypt’s confrontation by hiking Islamists’ fury at the military. There are already fears of an armed Islamist backlash, and before dawn gunmen in the Sinai attacked military facilities, killing one soldier.
Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood called for yesterday’s protests. Officials strongly urged their followers to keep the rallies peaceful.
But the troops’ use of deadly force is set to fuel calls for violence among harder-line groups that gained considerable freedom during Morsi’s year in office.
Egypt’s army denied a report that curfews had been imposed in two North Sinai towns on the border with Israel and the Gaza Strip.
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