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Blood and blame spread in Egypt after judge orders Morsy jailed

Blood and blame spread in Egypt after judge orders Morsy jailed
CNN
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Saturday, July 27, 2013 - 7:09pm

Egypt's interim interior minister blamed supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsy for violence Saturday that left dozens dead and hundreds more wounded.

The statement appears to signal a rapidly waning tolerance of Morsy's Muslim Brotherhood by the military-backed government.

The comments by Minister Mohamed Ibrahim followed clashes overnight between Morsy's supporters and those opposed to his rule that left dozens dead, an escalation of violence that has raised concerns among Western leaders about the stability of a key ally in the region.

Both sides in Cairo claimed the other had fired at them. A wounded pro-Morsy protester said he saw such shots, and noticed people with gunshot wounds at area hospitals. Early Sunday, however, state-run Nile TV reported the prosecutor general's office concluded the protesters initiated the clashes and fired live bullets on security forces.

Neither side gave any hint of backing down. In fact, tensions could escalate even further given the news -- announced by Ibrahim at a televised news conference -- that Morsy would probably be moved to the same prison where ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak is being held.

An investigative judge will make the ultimate decision on Morsy's destination, according to Ibrahim. Morsy has been ordered jailed by a judge for 15 days on allegations, predating his election, that he collaborated with the Palestinian group Hamas, according to state media.

Morsy has not been seen publicly since the military forced him from office on July 3.

Nasser Amin -- a lawyer who met with Morsy's former chief of staff, Refa'a al-Tahtawi, who also is being detained -- told CNN that the former president is being "treated with the utmost respect,.. like a statesman."

Yet, Amin claimed, Morsy and others who are being held "can't contact the outside world or lawyers."

Deadly accusations

Since Morsy's ouster, supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, have staged mass rallies and sit-ins across the country. In Cairo and elsewhere, rival rallies have drawn hundreds of thousands.

Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, head of the military, called for mass demonstrations to support him and the military in ending what he has called "terrorism." The Brotherhood condemned his statements as "inciting violence and hatred."

In fact, it appears unlikely Morsy's supporters will end their demonstrations without resistance -- leaders of the movement refuse to recognize the interim government or cooperate with it -- despite Ibrahim's pledge that the rallies will be brought to an end soon.

"We have complete coordination between the police and the armed forces to end the protests at the proper time," Ibrahim said. "... But we are waiting for the prosecutor's office to issue orders so can we have the legal cover for it."

Those opposed to Morsy took to the streets Friday and into the early morning hours Saturday to celebrate the military that had pushed him from office.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which Morsy formerly led, accused police Friday and Saturday of firing on protesters with live ammunition.

A wounded protester getting medical treatment at a field hospital said he saw men in plain clothes fire on pro-Morsy demonstrators with shotguns.

He referred to them as "thugs," a term commonly used for young men, who support the government and resort to violence.

"Police forces were standing behind them. Also, military forces were outside blocking three entrances to Rabaa Adawiya neighborhood," Mohammed Sultan said. He also reported seeing corpses with gunshot wounds at the hospital.

Yet a police spokesman rejected the claim that police had opened fire Saturday, saying police only used tear gas canisters and were not responsible for the deaths.

Ibrahim echoed that sentiment, blaming the protesters for violence that he said left 14 wounded.

"I want to emphasize here that the Interior Ministry police force has never and will never fire its weapons at any Egyptian citizen," he said.

Whoever was to blame, no one was doubting the reality of the carnage.

Dr. Mohammed Ali Sultan, chairman of Egypt's ambulance services, told CNN that 72 had been killed in the Nasr City violence.

Medics at a field hospital in Nasr City -- run by the Muslim Brotherhood -- earlier put the toll at 66 people dead, with another 61 on life support among thousands wounded.

Dr. Khaled Al Khatib, the health ministry's head of central emergency and critical care, had said late Saturday on Nile TV that 269 were wounded there, with another 479 suffering injuries as a result of similar clashes in other provinces. More than half of those wounded are still receiving treatment in Egyptian hospitals, he said.

Another nine people died in clashes Friday in Alexandria, according to Al Khatib.

The government has accused the Muslim Brotherhood of inflating casualty tolls, while the Brotherhood has accused the government of trying to downplay the number being killed.

A different scene played out overnight Friday in nearby Tahrir Square, which was the hub of the popular movement that led to the 2011 military ouster of Mubarak.

Repeatedly, fireworks lit up the night sky. Those gathered below, opposed to Morsy, cheered military helicopters that flew by, dropping leaflets and Egyptian flags.

Prosecutor: Morsy collaborated with Hamas

The former Muslim Brotherhood leader became Egypt's first democratically president in June 2012, but found himself at odds with the opposition before the military removed him from power and detained him this month.

Nineteen members of the Brotherhood, including Morsy, are accused of breaking out of jail after Egypt's 2011 revolution, state media reported.

The prosecutors, who ordered a probe two weeks ago, said the escape was plotted by "foreign elements" including Hamas, its military wing, the Islamic Palestinian Army and Hezbollah. The Muslim Brotherhood was named as a domestic group that cooperated with those who broke them out of prison.

Morsy is accused of escaping, destroying the prison's official records and intentionally killing and abducting police officers and prisoners.

Local media reports at the time stated that Morsy was in prison for a single day. Critics of the Mubarak regime have said that the jailbreak was organized by the Mubarak regime in an attempt to sow chaos during the uprising against him.

According to the Al-Masri Al-Youm newspaper, Morsy was among 500 members of the Muslim Brotherhood who have been arrested for planning to join anti-Mubarak demonstrations. Allegedly, there were no formal charges against them.

The military has not commented on Morsy's whereabouts. When he was first detained, a Brotherhood spokesman told CNN that he was initially under house arrest at the presidential Republican Guard headquarters in Cairo and later was moved to the defense ministry.

Officials worldwide express concern

While Egypt has been on edge since Mubarak's ouster in early 2011. Even so, the ratcheting up of violence has gotten the world's attention.

The European Union's foreign minister condemned the killings of pro-Morsy protesters in Nasr City, as well as bellicose language by Egyptian officials.

"There is no room for hate-speech and other forms of incitement," according to a statement released by Catherine Ashton's office.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke Saturday with al-Sisi, his Egyptian counterpart, to encourage restraint, said Pentagon spokesman George Little.

And U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke Saturday with Egypt's interim vice president and its foreign minister to voice Washington's "deep concern about the bloodshed.

"This is a pivotal moment for Egypt," Kerry said in a statement. "Over two years ago, the revolution began. Its final verdict is not decided, but it will be forever impacted by what happens now."

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