Saturday 29 June 2013

Egypt clerics warn of civil war, urge calm

American among dead as Egypt violence rages on
Two people, one an American, were killed when protesters stormed an office of Egypt's ruling Muslim Brotherhood in Alexandria on Friday, adding to growing tension ahead of mass rallies aimed at unseating the Islamist president

28 June, 2013

Leading clerics warned of "civil war" after violence in the past week that has left several dead and hundreds wounded. They backed President Mohamed Mursi's offer to talk to opposition groups ahead of Sunday's protests.

The United Nations, European Union and United States have appealed for restraint and urged Egypt's deadlocked political leaders to step back from a confrontation threatening the new democracy that emerged from the Arab Spring revolution of 2011.

The Muslim Brotherhood said eight of its offices had been attacked on Friday, including the one in Alexandria. Officials said more than 70 people had been injured in the clashes in the city. One was shot dead and a young American man who was using a small camera died after being stabbed in the chest.

A Brotherhood member was also killed overnight in an attack on a party office at Zagazig, in the heavily populated Nile Delta, where much of the recent violence has been concentrated. Mursi's movement said five supporters in all had died this week.

"Vigilance is required to ensure we do not slide into civil war," said clerics from Cairo's ancient Al-Azhar institute, one of the most influential centers of scholarship in the Muslim world.

In a statement broadly supportive of Mursi, they backed his offer of dialogue and blamed "criminal gangs" who besieged mosques for the violence. The Brotherhood warned of "dire consequences" and "a violent spiral of anarchy".

It accused liberal leaders, including former U.N. diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei, of personally inciting violence by hired "thugs" once loyal to ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak.

Opposition leaders condemned the violence. The army, which has warned it could intervene if political leaders lose control, issued a statement saying it had deployed across the country to protect citizens and installations of national importance.

In the capital, Cairo, tens of thousands turned out for rival events some miles apart and there was little trouble. An Islamist rally included calls to reconciliation. On Tahrir Square, cradle of the uprising against Mubarak, there was a festive atmosphere and a determination to shake Mursi on Sunday.

In Alexandria, as several thousand anti-Mursi protesters marched along the seafront, a Reuters reporter saw about a dozen men throw rocks at guards outside the Brotherhood office. They responded. Bricks and bottles flew. Guns went off.

Officials said dozens suffered birdshot injuries. The party office was ransacked and documents were burned, watched by jubilant youths chanting against Egypt's Islamist leaders.

In Port Said, at the mouth of the Suez Canal, a man died in a blast during an anti-Mursi protest. Police said they suspected an accident with a gas canister but were still investigating.


Islamists gathered round a Cairo mosque after weekly prayers to show support for Mursi. His opponents hope millions will turn out on Sunday to demand he step down, a year to the day after he was sworn in as Egypt's first freely chosen leader.

Mursi, backed by the Brotherhood, has dismissed such demands as an assault on democracy, setting up an angry confrontation.

"I came to support the legitimate order," said Ahmed al-Maghrabi, 37, a shopkeeper from the Nile Delta city of Mansoura whose hand bore grazes from street fighting there this week. "I am with the elected president. He needs to see out his term."

Some speakers reflected fear and anger among Islamists that opponents aim to suppress them as Mubarak did. But there was also talk from the podium of the need for dialogue - a concern also of international powers worried by the bitter polarization.

At one point, a song was played praising unity among "Muslims and Christians, Islamists and liberals" - a marked contrast to a similar gathering in the same spot last Friday when hardliners warned opponents against attacking Mursi.

Standing above pictures of those killed, Abdel Rahman al-Barr, a Brotherhood leader, said: "The only way forward is for us to sit down together ... To those who smash a hole in the ship of state, we will not respond by smashing another. We will work to repair the hole. We will not let the ship sink."

A few hundred opposition protesters gathered outside the presidential palace, a focus for Sunday's rally. Mursi has moved elsewhere. Thousands turned out after dark in Tahrir Square, waving national flags and sampling street food.

Abdelhamid Nada, a 32-year-old accountant, had come from the provinces with eight friends to camp out "until Mursi goes". "The Muslim Brotherhood has no plan at all," he said, standing by his white tent. "They don't have any economic plan, they don't have any social plan, they don't have any political plan."

He expected no violence from Islamists on Sunday but added: "If they are stupid enough to do it ... we will win."


The army, which heeded mass protests in early 2011 to push Mubarak aside, has warned it will intervene again if there is violence, and to defend the "will of the people". Both sides believe that means the military may support their positions.

The United States, which funds Egypt's army as it did under Mubarak, has urged compromise and respect for election results. Egypt's 84 million people, its control of the Suez Canal and its peace treaty with Israel all contribute to its global strategic importance.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon urged Egyptians to respect "universal principles of peaceful dialogue" and to strengthen their democracy by promoting an "inclusive environment".

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton urged all sides to keep protests peaceful, build trust and show a "spirit of dialogue and tolerance".

In Alexandria, opposition marchers said they feared the Brotherhood was usurping the revolution to entrench its power and Islamic law. Others had economic grievances, among them huge lines for fuel caused by supply problems and panic buying.

"I've nothing to do with politics, but with the state we're in now, even a stone would cry out," said 42-year-old accountant Mohamed Abdel Latif. "There are no services, we can't find diesel or gasoline. We elected Mursi, but this is enough.

"Let him make way for someone else who can fix it."

It is hard to gauge how many may turn out on Sunday but much of the population, even those sympathetic to Islamic ideas, are frustrated by the economic slump and many blame the government.

Previous protest movements since the fall of Mubarak have failed to gather momentum, however, among a population anxious for stability and fearful of further economic hardship.

Clashes, tear gas as massive protests grip Egypt amid 'growing security crisis'
Tens of thousands of supporters and opponents of President Morsi join protests across Egypt with violent clashes between the rival parties reported in Alexandria, where police used tear gas as at least two people were killed and nearly 90 injured.

28 June, 2013

Security forces used tear gas to break up clashes between rival protesters in Alexandria, according to MENA news agency. According to Minister of Health Mohamed Mostafa Hamed, 88 people were injured there. One man died after being shot into the head.

Supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi and anti-Mursi protesters clash in Sedy Gaber in Alexandria, June 28, 2013. (Reuters)

Egyptian officials have confirmed that a US citizen was killed in the violence, reportedly having been stabbed in the chest. His identity remains unconfirmed. RT’s Bel Trew says that according to reports, the American was a teacher who may have gone to the clashes to film them as part of a project.

"There were two deaths - an Egyptian, and an American who was wounded during the events. He was filming," said General Amin Ezzeddin, a senior Alexandria security official.

Following the news the US State Department has warned Americans against all but essential travel to Egypt and said it would allow some nonessential staff and the families of personnel at the US Embassy in Cairo to leave the country.
Thomas Callahan

A man injured from clashes between supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi and anti-Mursi protesters lies on a stretcher in Sedy Gaber in Alexandria, June 28, 2013. (Reuters)

The Muslim Brotherhood's headquarters in Alexandria were stormed by anti-Morsi demonstrators and set on fire, local media reported.

Overall, more than 160 people got injured across the country, with at least 32 people sustaining wounds in clashes in Dakahlia Governorate, according to local media.

Both President Morsi’s supporters and opponents had been planning their rallies on Friday, while the wider opposition coalition is also expected to bring millions out on Sunday, calling for new elections.

Islamists, members of the brotherhood, and supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi shout slogans holding the Holy Quran during a protest around the Raba El-Adwyia mosque square in the suburb of Nasr City, Cairo, June 28, 2013.(Reuters / Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

"We are confident the Egyptian masses will go out in their millions in Egypt's squares and streets on June 30 to confirm their will to get the January 25 revolution back on track," the liberal opposition coalition said.

RT’s correspondent in Egypt Bel Trew reported that “the country is worried that there will be further violence after several days of clashes between rival groups, demonstrating either in support of the president or against him.”

In the capital, thousands of people marched towards Tahrir Square, chanting slogans against President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Marches in Cairo originated from Mostafa Mahmoud Square, Sayeda Zeinab, Al-Azhar Mosque and Shubra, Ahram Online reports.

In the light of the rallies, local residents have been withdrawing cash, queuing outside petrol stations and stocking up on food, according to AFP. Many companies said they would close on the first day of the working week in Egypt, Sunday, when the large-scale opposition rally is due to take place.

The army, which helped protesters overthrow previous President Hosni Mubarak, has warned that it could step back in to impose order should violence spin out of control.

Protest comes amidst a growing security crisis across the country. We’ve already seen several people die, hundreds injured in the days leading up to the protests. We’re seeing an increase of civilians armed and bringing those weapons to protests which has led many to call for the army to step in and secure the nation,” Bel Trew added.

Earlier this week one man was shot dead and four wounded in an attack on a provincial party office, Egypt's ruling Muslim Brotherhood said. The incident, which took place north of Cairo, raised the death toll to five in factional fighting that also left many injured over the past week, with fears of wider violence during the upcoming protests, two years after the Arab Spring revolution that ousted Mubarak.

Egypt's leading religious authority warned of "civil war" and called for calm in response to the death of the member of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood, Reuters reported.

"Vigilance is required to ensure we do not slide into civil war," Al-Azhar clerical institution said in a statement reported by state media.

The Arab world's most influential and one of the largest Islamic movements, the Muslim Brotherhood, has slammed activists campaigning to force the fifth president of Egypt, 61-year-old Morsi, to resign as he celebrates his first year in office.

On Thursday, the opposition National Salvation Front coalition refused Morsi’s offer to cooperate on reforms to end a political deadlock that has driven the biggest Arab nation into economic crisis, and called instead for an early presidential election.

Morsi’s critics primarily see him as a Muslim Brotherhood delegate, appointing Islamists in key positions, returning Egypt to authoritarianism.

I think it goes without saying, and Morsi himself has partially admitted it, that he has disappointed people. As far as those people who helped to bring Mubarak down or a sizable section of them he’s changed absolutely nothing since he came to power and these protests are to show that the democratic fig leaf is not enough. So what will happen on Sunday will be quite decisive,” author and journalist Tariq Ali told RT.

Ali says Egypt is divided between those who seek an evolution towards democracy, and those who are still in the mind-set of the old regime.

It’s not the case that he [Morsi] is bereft of support, it’s just that the country is now very sharply divided between those who want some meaningful change and he government which is maintaining continuity with the previous regime and in some instances getting worse.”

Morsi’s Islamist supporters emphasize that he derives his authority from the first free presidential election in Egypt’s history, and that the challenges he faces, namely corrupt and inefficient institutions, economic woes and religious strife have all been inherited.

In a televised speech on Wednesday, Morsi warned that political polarization threatened to “paralyze” Egypt.

He has also admitted making mistakes and pledged to correct them.

I have made many mistakes, there is no question. Mistakes can happen, but they need to be corrected,” he said.

Morsi threatened legal action against several prominent figures, claiming some judges were obstructing him, and accused liberal media owners of bias.

Shortly afterwards, he publicly accused the owner of CBC television of tax evasion, Mohamed Amin found he was barred from leaving the country. "This is dictatorship," his lawyer told Reuters.

Officials also ordered the arrest of a talk show host on another channel and the station to be shut down for inciting mutiny in the army and for insulting the armed forces and the police.

Last week, tens of thousands of Islamists got together, chanting for Morsi and Islamic law, calling the turnout proof that he enjoys mass support and accusing the opposition of being remnants of Mubarak’s regime.

From al-Jazeera

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