Egypt stares over the abyss as 40 killed and 322 injured in clashes between Morsi supporters and security forces
At least 40 people have been killed in clashes outside a military building in Cairo where supporters of former president Mohammed Morsi were holding a sit-in, an Egyptian health ministry official said.
Ministry spokesman Khaled el-Khatib said initial reports indicated that at least 322 others were injured, although he gave no details on the circumstances.
Military spokesmen said gunmen opened fire on troops at the building, killing at least five supporters of Mohammed Morsi and one officer.
Mourad Ali, a spokesman for Mr Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, and a witness at the scene however said military forces opened fire at dawn on the protesters outside the Republican Guard building. The different accounts could not be reconciled.
Satellite broadcaster Al-Jazeera showed footage from a nearby field hospital of at least six bodies laid out on the ground, some with severe wounds. A medic from the area, Hesham Agami, said ambulances were unable to transport more than 200 wounded to hospitals because the military had blocked off the roads.
Al-Shaimaa Younes, who was at the sit-in, said military troops and police forces opened fire on the protesters during early morning prayers.
"They opened fire with live ammunition and lobbed tear gas," she said by telephone. "There was panic and people started running. I saw people fall."
Women and children were among the protesters, she said.
Morsi supporters have been holding rallies and a sit-in outside the Republican Guard building since the military deposed the president last week during massive protests against him.
The military chief replaced Mr Morsi with an interim president, until presidential elections are held. But his supporters have refused to recognise the change in leadership and insisted Mr Morsi be reinstated. Besides the Republican Guard sit-in, they are also holding thousands-strong daily rallies at a nearby mosque.
Mr Morsi's opponents are also holding rival rallies. They say the former president lost his legitimacy by mismanaging the country and not ruling democratically, leading to a mass revolt which called on the army to push him from office.
Military spokesman Colonel Ahmed Mohammed Ali said initial information indicates that gunmen affiliated with the Brotherhood tried to storm the Republican Guard building shortly after dawn, firing live ammunition and throwing firebombs from a nearby mosque and rooftops. One police officer on the scene was killed, he said.
Another military spokesman said five from the Brotherhood side were killed.
A statement by the armed forces published on the state news agency said "an armed terrorist group" tried to storm the Republican Guard building, killing one officer and seriously injuring six. The statement said the forces arrested 200 attackers, armed with guns and ammunition.
After declaring the ousting of Mr Morsi last Wednesday, Defence Minister Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi replaced him with Egypt's chief justice and suspended the constitution until new presidential elections. The transition plan is backed by liberal and secular opponents of Mr Morsi, and had been also supported by the ultraconservative Islamist Al-Nour party and both Muslim and Christian religious leaders.
Soon after the attack report however, Al-Nour party spokesman Nader Bakkar said on his Twitter account that his party is withdrawing its support for the transition plan in response to the "massacre".