Egypt fears more violence as Brotherhood calls ‘Day of Rage’

Anti-Morsi camps also planning demonstrations against ‘terrorism’; death toll from Wednesday’s raids soars to well over 600

Burnt poster of Egypt's ousted president Mohammed Morsi in Nahda Square, near Cairo University, in Giza, Cairo, Egypt, on Thursday, August 15, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Amr Nabil)
Burnt poster of Egypt's ousted president Mohammed Morsi in Nahda Square, near Cairo University, in Giza, Cairo, Egypt, on Thursday, August 15, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Amr Nabil)

Egypt is bracing for yet another day of violence as Muslim Brotherhood supporters have called for a “Day of Rage” across the country Friday, in response to the security forces’ dawn crackdown Wednesday on two sit-ins supportive of ousted president Mohammed Morsi. The deadly raids have left at least 638 people dead, according to the latest figures, and the arrest the Muslim Brotherhood leaders.

“AntiCoup rallies tomorrow will depart from all mosques of Cairo & head towards Ramisis [sic] square after Jumaa prayer in “Friday of Anger,” tweeted Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Gehad el-Haddad late Thursday.

Meanwhile, the anti-Morsi group Tamarod, which was responsible for the mass rallies that led to his ouster on July 3, called on the people of Egypt to rally against “terrorism.”

“During these difficult times, we must all stand together … to defend the future of our children from terrorism and the dark forces which want to drag us back centuries,” the group said in a statement.

Tamarod called on “the great people of Egypt to form popular committees on all streets, outside homes and churches around the country, carrying Egyptian flags to reject domestic terrorism and foreign interference.”

Violence spread across the country Thursday, with government buildings set afire near the pyramids, policemen gunned down and scores of Christian churches attacked. As turmoil engulfed the country, the Interior Ministry authorized the use of deadly force against protesters targeting police and state institutions.

Fearful of more violence Friday in response to calls for more protests by both the Brotherhood and the anti-Morsi camps, some main streets in Cairo were closed and people in many neighborhoods set up cement blocks and metal barricades. Residents checked IDs in scenes reminiscent of the 2011 revolution when vigilante-style groups set up neighborhood watches to prevent looting and other attacks.

Earlier Thursday, the Egyptian Presidency’s office issued a statement criticizing the American and world reactions to the violence, particularly comments made by US President Barack Obama that “traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual.” The presidential statement said the remarks were not based “on the truth of matters” and could be seen as “strengthening the armed violent groups and encouraging them in their path.”

The United States also urged its citizens to leave Egypt. Scandinavian travel firms aimed to evacuate all of their travelers by Monday after the governments of Denmark, Sweden and Norway warned against unnecessary travel.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council convened Thursday to discuss the crisis, calling on Egypt to to “stop violence and advance national reconciliation.”

The turmoil is the latest chapter in a bitter standoff between Morsi’s supporters and the interim leadership that took over the Arab world’s most populous country following a July 3 coup. The military ouster came after millions of Egyptians took to the streets to demand Morsi step down, accusing him of giving the Brotherhood undue influence and failing to implement vital reforms or bolster the ailing economy.

Morsi has been held at an undisclosed location ever since. Other Brotherhood leaders, including several arrested Wednesday, have been charged with inciting violence or conspiring in the killing of protesters.

The Brotherhood has spent most of its 85 years as an outlawed group or enduring crackdowns by successive governments. The latest developments could provide authorities with the grounds to once again declare it an illegal group and consign it to the political wilderness.

On Monday, senior EU diplomats will meet in Brussels to discuss the situation in Egypt and possible EU action, said Eamonn Prendergast, a spokesman for the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton. He said the diplomats will decide whether to convene an emergency meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers on Egypt. The EU is a major source of aid, loans and business for Egypt, including European sun-seekers vacationing in the Red Sea resorts.

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