Egypt's Parliament dissolved; 6 dead in fighting

3:21 PM, Jul 5, 2013   |    comments
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Egyptians celebrate removal of President Mohammed Morsi

CAIRO (USA TODAY) - Egyptian troops opened fire Friday on mainly Islamist demonstrators outside the Republican Guard military barracks where ousted President Mohammed Morsi is being held, killing as many as six people.

The bloodiest confrontation came as troops opened fire on protesters outside the Republican Guards military barracks where the ousted president is being held. 

There was also some confusion regarding the source of the gunfire. Reporters for various news organizations reported seeing Egyptian troops open fire on the crowd. Reuters quoted a military spokesman as saying the army fired only blank rounds and tear gas at the protesters, not live ammunition.

BBC reporter Jeremy Boven, who was hit above the ear by shotgun pellets, said he saw the soldiers fire on the protesters.

Gehad El-Haddad, the spokesman for Muslim Brotherhood, said it was military police nearby -- not the Republican Guards -- who opened fire. He said on a Twitter post that he did not know if the shots were fired "under panic or by order."

The shootings came as tens of thousands of demonstrators heeded a call by Islamists for a "Friday of Rejection" to protest the removal of Egypt's first democratically elected president two days ago. Protesters rallied at the military barracks, and later at Cairo University and in front of state TV.

It also coincided with the formal dissolution of parliament by interim president Adly Mansour, who was installed as leader by the military after Morsi's dismissal. 

The gunfire erupted after protesters marched from a Cairo mosque following Friday prayers toward the barracks, chanting, "After sunset, President Morsi will be back in the palace."

Troops standing guard tore down the sign and warned the crowd to stay back. A protester then hung a second sign and the soldiers opened fire on the crowd, according to an Associated Press photographer at the scene.

Several protesters fell bloodied to the ground. At least person one had a gaping, bleeding exit wound in the back of his head.

Fellow protesters carried the body into a nearby building and covered his head with a blanket, declaring him dead, according to AP Television News footage.

Protesters pelted the line of troops with stones, and the soldiers responded with volleys of tear gas, but the clashes appeared for the moment to ease with midafternoon prayers.

Here's how the BBC reported the incident:

About 2,000 people had marched on the officers's club after passionate Friday Prayers at the nearby Rabaa al-Adawiya Mosque. As the crowd grew, got angrier and pushed forward, the troops opened fire -- first into the air, then at the crowd, our correspondent reports. He saw one man fall to the ground with blood on his clothes. More people are arriving at the scene and anger there is growing, he adds.

The military, which ousted Morsi, had warned protesters against violent demonstrations.

The National Alliance in Support of Electoral Legitimacy said it "feels rising public anger and the imminent danger threatening the nation as a result of the unprecedented military coup d'état against legitimacy derived from the will of the people and the January 25 Revolution."

Supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi rush a wounded man away from the scene of a shooting outside the Egyptian army's Republican Guard headquarters on July 5 in Cairo. At least three Morsi supporters were killed.

In a statement, the alliance said "it affirmed its full and categorical rejection of the military coup - against the President, the Constitution and democratic legitimacy - and all consequent actions and effects."

Mohammed Badie, the supreme leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, spoke at a rally near the Rabaa al-Adawiya Mosque in Cairo, and denied reports that he had been arrested. He also said demonstrators were determined to oppose the military's actions.

"We shall stay in the squares until we bring President Morsi back to power," he told a cheering crowd.

In Nasr City in Cairo, Essam ElErian, deputy chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party, which Morsi once headed, told a rally that "all of Egypt says 'no' to military coup," Al Jazeera reported.

"The honor of the military forces has been violated by the coup," he said. "What kind of reconciliation can take place after people's voice has been neglected? We will not accept such coup on elected government. We will not cooperate with such rule."

The military leaders who brought down Morsi on Wednesday also ordered the nation's parliament to be dissolved, suspended the constitution and installed Mansour, head of the country's High Constitutional Court, as the interim president until new elections are called.

As the country braced for more protests, the military warned protesters against any violence. The first major attack by militants, in Sinai, raised fears that the Islamists' extreme fringe will turn to violent retaliation for the toppling of Morsi.

Early Friday, masked gunmen used rockets, rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft guns to attack the airport in el-Arish, the provincial capital of northern Sinai, as well as a security forces camp in Rafah on the border with Gaza and five other military and police posts. At least one soldier was killed in nearly four hours of clashes that ensued.

The ongoing political turmoil has sparked pockets of violence nationwide over the past week, killing around 50. Clashes erupted again on Thursday between Morsi's opponents and supporters, this time in Morsi's hometown, Zagazig, which is located in the Nile Delta region. Dozens were injured.

Reports also said gunmen on Thursday attacked several police and military outposts in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula - a massive chunk of land that borders Israel and the Gaza Strip. Egypt's army announced a state of emergency in the area Friday, state TV reported.

Some fear violence may escalate in the coming days, and there are threats of Islamist retaliation. But organizers of Friday's pro-Morsi rallies are calling for peaceful mobilization.

Islamists are furious over what they view as a blatant attempt to thwart democracy. They say Morsi has constitutional legitimacy because he was democratically elected in what was considered the country's first free and fair election.

At the Cairo mosque where Morsi supporters have gathered for nearly a week, the mood was subdued on Thursday. Protesters said they won't budge until Morsi comes back. Many are angry at what they view as international support for a military coup, particularly from the United States.

"America supported the coup," said Hani Abu Nasser, an Arabic teacher at an institute associated with Al-Azhar, a leading academic and Islamic establishment. He said he thinks the U.S. is supporting Hosni Mubarak's "discriminatory" regime to try to keep political Islam from succeeding.

Muslim Brotherhood figures have been rounded up and arrested over the past few days and some are barred from leaving the country, further infuriating Islamists.

There is also concern among human rights groups over the effects of such rights abuses.

"A return to Mubarak-era practices of mass arrests and politically motivated imprisonment of Muslim Brotherhood leaders will have the worst possible effect on Egypt's political future," Human Rights Watch said.

"Egypt's new interim president and the military leadership should immediately end reprisals against Muslim Brotherhood political leaders, including arrests or travel bans, and should allow the Freedom and Justice Party to fully exercise freedom of association, the rights group said.

Several Islamist television channels have also been cut, violating expression freedoms.

Maha Maamoun, a human rights activist, said there is concern that rights violations could escalate in the weeks ahead as the army implements steps in the transitional period.

In a separate move Friday, the African Union suspended Egypt's membership on the grounds of an unconstitutional change in government.

While Egypt was ruled by a group of generals after Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011, the nation witnessed a spike in the number of military trials for civilians. In military courts, judges are military officers and basic due process rights are not respected, rights groups say. Soldiers also killed protesters, repeatedly broke up demonstrations using force and committed other human rights crimes.

"We are worried about the military," Maamoun said, noting that even under Morsi military trials for civilians have continued.

Still, many have cheered the military's role in facilitating Morsi's ouster, celebrating again Thursday night in Tahrir Square. Morsi's opponents don't view his overthrow as a coup, but rather a second - or continuing - revolution in which the army acted on the will of the people.

"It's going to be a transitional phase and (the military) will not rule," said Amir Dous, who protested against Morsi in the square this week. "They are here to make it easier for the transition to a democratic country."

"That's what I believe," he said.


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