Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Egyptians on edge following battles

A supporter of ousted president Mohammed Morsi holds a Quran while chanting slogans supporting Morsi during a rally in Cairo University (AP)
Protesters react after Egyptian security forces open fire on supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi (AP)
An anit-Morsi protester holds a poster of Lt Gen Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Egyptian Army Commander in Chief, during a rally in Tahrir Square (AP)

Egyptians are on edge after supporters and opponents of ousted president Mohammed Morsi fought overnight street battles that left at least 30 dead across the increasingly divided country.

Cairo's emblematic Tahrir Square and nearby approaches to the River Nile were largely empty but left strewn with debris. Thousands of Mr Morsi's Islamist supporters had marched to the area demanding his reinstatement but ended up fleeing under a hail of stones, fireworks and sometimes gunfire.

Enraged at his overthrow by millions of protesters backed by the country's powerful military, tens of thousands of Mr Morsi's supporters took to the streets on Friday, holding rallies they said they will continue until the former leader is returned to office.

The chaotic scenes that played out in the capital, mostly on a bridge leading to Tahrir, ended only after the army moved in with armoured vehicles to separate the warring groups. Some of Mr Morsi's opponents jumped on at least one vehicle to try to show that the military was on their side.

Meanwhile, Egypt's new president backed away from an announcement that pro-reform leader Mohamed Elbaradei would be the interim prime minister. A spokesman for interim President Adly Mansour, Ahmed el-Musilamani, told reporters on Saturday that consultations were continuing, denying that the appointment of the Nobel Peace laureate was ever certain.

However, reporters gathered at the presidential palace were ushered in to a room where they were told by official to wait for the president who would arrive shortly to announce ElBaradei's appointment.

A senior opposition official, Munir Fakhry Abdelnur, told The Associated Press that the reversal was because the ultraconservative Salafi el-Nour party objected to ElBardei's appointment and mediation was underway.

Across the country, clashes erupted as Morsi supporters tried to storm local government buildings or military facilities, battling police or Morsi opponents. Besides the 30 killed throughout the day, some 210 were wounded, Heath Ministry official Khaled el-Khatib said.

Islamists descended on an anti-Morsi rally, opening fire with guns in the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria, where at least 12 people were killed, mostly Morsi opponents, emergency services official Amr Salama said. One man was stabbed and thrown from the roof of a building by Morsi supporters after he raised an Egyptian flag and shouted insults against the ousted president, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene. Militants killed five policemen in shootings around the Sinai city of el-Arish, according to security officials.

An interim president - senior judge Adly Mansour - was sworn in on Thursday, and a cabinet of technocrats is to be formed to run Egypt until new elections can be held, although officials have not said when that will be. Mr Mansour dissolved the interim parliament - the upper house of the legislature - which was overwhelmingly dominated by Islamists and Morsi allies. He also named the head of General Intelligence, Rafaat Shehata, as his security adviser.

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