The Jerusalem Post- Egyptian security forces shot dead dozens of supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi on Saturday, witnesses said, days after the army chief called for a popular mandate to wipe out “violence and terrorism”.
Men in helmets and black police fatigues fired on crowds gathered before dawn on the fringes of a round-the-clock sit-in near a mosque in northeast Cairo, Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood said.
“They are not shooting to wound, they are shooting to kill,” said Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad. “The bullet wounds are in the head and chest.”
A Muslim Brotherhood website said 120 people had been killed and some 4,500 injured. A Reuters reporter counted 36 bodies at one morgue, while health officials said there were a further 21 corspes in two nearby hospitals.
Egypt’s Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim told reporters only 21 had died and denied police had opened fire, accusing the Brotherhood of exaggerating for political ends.
Ibrahim said local residents living close to the Rabaa al-Adawia mosque vigil had clashed with protesters in the early hours after they had blocked off a major road bridge. He said that police had used teargas to try to break up the fighting and to disperse demonstrators on a bridge because of concerns they could cause the bridge to collapse by lighting vehicle tires.
But he said the security forces had not used any live ammunition, but had instead suffered buckshot wounds and injuries from live rounds fired by protesters.
Well over 200 people have been killed in violence since the army toppled Morsi on July 3, following huge protests against his year in power. The army denies accusations it staged a coup, saying it intervened to prevent national chaos.
The Arab world’s most populous state is battling economic woes and struggling with the transition to democracy two years after Hosni Mubarak was swept from power in the Arab Spring.
Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians had poured onto the streets on Friday in response to a call by army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for nationwide demonstrations to give him backing to confront the weeks-long wave of violence.