Dozens shot dead, US tells Egypt to pull 'back from the brink'

  • Reuters, Cairo
  • |
  • Updated: Jul 29, 2013 02:02 IST
  • Turkish supporters

    Turkish supporters of Egypt's ousted President Morsi demonstrate outside the Egyptian embassy in Ankara. (AFP Photo)

  • Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

    A man holds posters depicting Egypt's top general, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, (R and 2nd R) and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, (L), as Turkish supporters of ...

  • Turkish supporters

    Turkish supporters of Egypt's ousted president Mohammed Morsi demonstrate to condemn the latest killings in Cairo. (AFP Photo)

  • Muslim Brotherhood

    Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi (foreground) clash with opponents to Morsi (background) in Cairo. (AFP Photo)

  • Egyptian army

    Egyptian army, opponents of Egypt's ousted President Morsi protest at Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo)

  • Egypt

    An anti-Mursi protester waves as a military helicopter passes over Tahrir square with lasers pointed at the helicopter during a mass protest to support ...

  • Egypt

    An aerial picture taken from a military helicopter shows Tahrir Square during a rally of opponents to deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, in Cairo ...

  • Egypt

    An Egyptian Army helicopter flies over thousands of supporters of Egypt's top military officer, Gen. Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi during a rally in Tahrir Square in ...

  • Egypt

    A car that members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi say was burnt by police and plain-clothed people ...

  • Egypt

    Supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi run from tear gas fired at them by police during clashes in Nasr city area, east of ...

The United States urged Arab ally Egypt to pull "back from the brink" after security forces killed dozens of supporters of deposed Islamist President Mohamed Morsi and opened a dangerous new phase in the army's confrontation with his Muslim Brotherhood.

Thousands of Brotherhood supporters were hunkered down in a vigil at a Cairo mosque on Sunday, vowing to stand their ground despite a threat by the authorities to disperse them "soon".

Saturday's bloodshed, following huge rival rallies, plunged the Arab world's most populous country deeper into turmoil following two turbulent years of transition to democracy with the fall of veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Egypt's Health Ministry said 65 people had died. The Brotherhood said another 61 were on life support after what it described as a ferocious dawn assault by men in helmets and black police fatigues. The ambulance service put the death toll at 72.

Bodies wrapped in white sheets were laid on the floor of a Brotherhood morgue, their names scrawled on the shrouds.

Bodies in a makeshift morgue in Cairo. (NYT Photo)

Washington, treading a fine line with an important Middle East ally and recipient of over $1 billion in military aid, urged the Egyptian security forces to respect the right to peaceful protest.

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke by telephone with Egyptian army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who led the July 3 military overthrow of Morsi and whose face has appeared on posters across the teeming capital, Cairo.

US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to two senior members of Egypt's army-installed interim cabinet, expressing his "deep concern."

"This is a pivotal moment for Egypt," he said in a statement. "The United States ... calls on all of Egypt's leaders across the political spectrum to act immediately to help their country take a step back from the brink."

Saturday's violence, and the threat of more, has deepened alarm in the West over events in the country of 84 million people, a vital bridge between the Middle East and North Africa.

Over 200 people have died in violence since Sisi deposed Morsi on the back of huge popular protests against his rule, ending a one-year experiment in government by the Muslim Brotherhood after decades spent in the shadows under successive Egyptian strongmen.

Wounded supporters of Mohammed Morsi receive medical treatment at a field hospital in the Nasr City neighborhood of Cairo. (NYT Photo)


In the early hours of Sunday, the state-run Al-Ahram news website reported fresh confrontation in the western Helwan district of Cairo between what it described as marching Brotherhood supporters and angry residents.

Read more: 37 bodies at Islamist-run field hospital in Cairo

Morsi has been held in army detention at an undisclosed location since

The report said several cars were destroyed and gunshots heard, but there was no information on casualties.

Saturday's killings followed a day of rival mass rallies, triggered by a call from Sisi for a popular mandate to confront "violence and terrorism."

Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi (foreground) clash with opponents of ousted president Morsi in Cairo (AFP Photo)

Denying police culpability, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said the vigil outside the Rabaa al-Adawia mosque in northern Cairo would "God willing, soon … be dealt with."

Read more : Obama administration officials: no coup in Egypt

A public prosecutor is reviewing complaints from local residents unhappy with the huge encampment on their doorstep.

Ibrahim said angry residents had clashed with Brotherhood protesters in the early hours of Saturday, and police intervened with teargas.

Brotherhood activists said they would not be cowed and warned of worse bloodshed if the security forces did not back down. Thousands were packed into the area as night fell.

"We will stay here until we die, one by one," said Ahmed Ali, 24, as he helped treat casualties at a makeshift field hospital on Saturday.

Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad said they would remain until their demands are met and Egypt's first freely elected president is reinstated. He accused Sisi of issuing a "clear, pre-determined order to kill."

Read more : Egypt: at least 72 killed at pro-Morsi rallies in Cairo

he was deposed. Ibrahim said he would likely be transferred shortly to the same Cairo prison where Mubarak is now held, after authorities launched an investigation of him on charges including murder stemming from his 2011 escape from jail during Egypt's Arab Spring uprising.

The European Union and major European powers condemned Saturday's bloodshed, the second mass killing since Morsi's ouster. On July 8, more than 50 Brotherhood supporters died when security forces opened fire on them outside a Cairo barracks.

The events have led US President Barack Obama last week to delay delivery of four F-16 fighter jets, part of some $1.5 billion a year in mainly military aid from Washington to Cairo, though US officials have indicated there will be no cut-off in support to the pivotal ally.


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