Muslim Brotherhood prepare fresh demos as street battles leave at least 173 dead in Egypt

Muslim Brotherhood prepare fresh demos as street battles leave at least 173 dead in Egypt

CAIRO - Agence France-Presse
Muslim Brotherhood prepare fresh demos as street battles leave at least 173 dead in Egypt

A supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and of ousted President Mohamed Morsi takes cover during clashes with security officers clsoe to Cairo's Ramses Square, on Aug. 16. AFP photo

Egyptian security forces surrounded a Cairo mosque full of supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi on Aug. 17 as protesters planned fresh marches after street battles that left more than 173 dead.

The tense stand off at the Al-Fath mosque came after bloody clashes that killed 173 people across the country and resulted in the arrest of more than 1,000 alleged supporters of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.

The crackdown has divided Egyptians as never before in recent history, splintering the army-installed government and inviting international censure.

One protester said nearly 1,000 people were trapped in the mosque, which had earlier held the bodies of more than 20 people killed in Friday's clashes.

Soldiers had offered to evacuate the women but insisted on questioning the men, which the protesters refused, a demonstrator on the scene said.

Both sides accused the other of opening fire but the gunfire then ended, one person inside the mosque told AFP. "Thugs tried to storm the mosque but the men barricaded the doors," she said.

Security officials quoted by the official MENA news agency said that "armed elements" had been shooting at security forces and police from inside the mosque.

Morsi's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) pleaded for another "massacre" to be avoided after at least 578 people were killed across the country Aug. 14 when police cleared protest camps set up by loyalists of the former president deposed by the military on July 3. It was not possible to verify the numbers in the mosque independently.

The latest unrest started as Morsi supporters emerged from mosques in the capital to protest in what they billed as a "Friday of anger" following Wednesday's bloodbath. Violence erupted almost immediately, with gunshots ringing out in Cairo and security forces firing tear gas.

In the capital, a man leapt off a bridge near a police station to escape shooting as police armoured vehicles advanced on protesters, witnesses said.

At least 173 people have been killed across Egypt in the last 24 hours, including 95 in central Cairo, the health ministry said on Aug. 17, after clashes between security forces and protesters.

Marches were also reported in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, in Beni Sueif and Fayyum, south of Cairo, and in the Red Sea resort town of Hurghada.

Spokesman calls for 'daily anti-coup rallies'

The demonstrations ended shortly after a night-time curfew came into effect but Anti-Coup Alliance spokesman Gehad El-Haddad told AFP that Morsi loyalists would hold "daily anti-coup rallies" going forward.

The interior ministry said in a statement early Aug. 17 that "the number of Muslim Brotherhood elements arrested reached 1004," including 558 in Cairo alone.

The Egyptian cabinet issued a defiant statement after the unrest, 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.

The interior ministry, which authorised police to use live fire if government buildings came under attack, accused the Brotherhood of attacking police stations, saying it foiled attempts to storm buildings.