Egyptian security forces end standoff with Morsi supporters at Cairo mosque

Egyptian security forces end standoff with Morsi supporters at Cairo mosque

CAIRO - Agence France-Presse
Egyptian security forces end standoff with Morsi supporters at Cairo mosque

Policemen stand guard inside a room of al-Fath mosque when supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi exchanged gunfire with security forces inside the mosque in Cairo Aug. 17. REUTERS photo

Egyptian security forces cleared supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi trapped in a Cairo mosque on Aug. 17 after a standoff that included exchanges of fire, as the death toll from four days of violence surpassed 750.

Security forces dragged por-Morsi protesters from the Al-Fath mosque, passing through angry crowds who tried to beat the trapped group of hundreds, calling them "terrorists." The group included a Turkish journalist covering the events for the public broadscater TRT. 

The clashes came as the government said 173 people had been killed in the past 24 hours alone, bring the country's death toll to more than 750 since Aug. 14, when police cleared two camps of Morsi loyalists in the capital.

According to an AFP tally, at least 1,042 people have been killed since June 26, when Morsi supporters began protesting before mass demonstrations against the Islamist leader that prompted the military to end his single year of turbulent rule on July 3.

International criticism of the bloodshed mounted, with Germany and Qatar jointly condemning "the ongoing and brutal violence."

The standoff at Al-Fath mosque in central Ramses Square began on Aug. 16, with security forces surrounding the building where Islamists were sheltering and trying to convince them to leave.

The pro-Morsi protesters had lined up the bodies of dozens of demonstrators who had been killed on Aug. 16 inside the mosque-turned-morgue.

By SAug. 17 afternoon, the situation turned violent, with an AFP reporter on the scene saying gunmen inside the mosque were trading fire with police outside.

Police eventually dragged people from inside the mosque, firing in the air to hold back residents of the area who tried to attack the Islamists with sticks and iron bars.

Both outside the mosque and in several other parts of Cairo, residents targeted those suspected of being Islamists, often for no more than wearing a beard or a veil.

Son of Brotherhood leader killed, al-Qaeda leader's brother arrested

On Aug. 16, Morsi supporters had announced "Friday of anger" demonstrations, which quickly turned violent, with gunshots ringing out in several parts of Cairo.

The government said those clashes killed least 173 people across the country, including 95 in Cairo and 25 in Alexandria.

Among those killed on Aug. 16 was the son of Mohamed Badie, chief of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.

The Anti-Coup Alliance of Morsi supporters announced it would end the protests shortly after a night-time curfew came into effect, but pledged daily demonstrations going forward.

The interior ministry said it had arrested 1,004 Muslim Brotherhood "elements", and on Aug. 17 security sources said the brother of Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri had been detained.

And security sources said authorities had arrested the brother of Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, a Morsi supporter.

The Egyptian cabinet issued a defiant statement on Aug. 16 night saying it was confronting a "terrorist plot." "The cabinet affirms that the government, the armed forces, the police and the great people of Egypt are united in confronting the malicious terrorist plot by the Muslim Brotherhood," it said.

And the interior ministry, which authorised police to use live fire if government buildings came under attack, said several attempts to storm buildings had been foiled.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International called for a full and impartial investigation into the bloodshed, saying the authorities' response to the protests had been "grossly disproportionate".