Death toll reaches at least 136 in Cairo as Muslim Brotherhood accuses security forces of shooting to kill
Link to video: Egypt: ‘100 Muslim Brotherhood members killed’ in CairoAt least 136 supporters of Egypt‘s ousted president, Mohamed Morsi, have been shot dead by security officials in what is the worst state-led massacre in the country since the fall of Hosni Mubarak, according to figures released by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.
The Egyptian health ministry said that it had counted only 20 dead so far – though their figures are only based on bodies delivered to state institutions. Reporters at the scene counted at least 36 corpses in a single room.
The massacre took place in the small hours of Saturday morning, at a sit-in at Rabaa al-Adawiya, east Cairo, where tens of thousands of pro-Morsi supporters have camped since Morsi was deposed on 3 July.
Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad said the shooting started shortly before pre-dawn morning prayers on the fringes of a round-the-clock vigil being staged by backers of Morsi, who was toppled by the army more than three weeks ago.
“They are not shooting to wound, they are shooting to kill,” Haddad said, adding that the death toll might be much higher.
Al Jazeera’s Egypt television station reported that 120 had been killed and some 4,500 injured in the early morning violence near Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawia mosque.
Reporters at the scene said firing could still be heard hours after the troubles started.
“I have been trying to make the youth withdraw for five hours. I can’t. They are saying they have paid with their blood and they do not want to retreat,” said Saad el-Hosseini, a senior Brotherhood politician.
“It is a first attempt to clear Rabaa al-Adawia,” he said.
An injured man is treated at a field hospital. Photograph: Ahmed Khaled/EPA
There was no immediate comment from state authorities on what had happened.
The clashes started after police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of Morsi supporters who tried to extend the sit-in in eastern Cairo.
Al Jazeera showed medics desperately trying to revive casualties arriving at a field hospital set up near the mosque.
El-Haddad said police started firing repeated rounds of tear-gas at protesters on a road close to the mosque sometime after 3am local time (2am BST). Shortly afterwards, live rounds started flying, hitting people at close range.
The deaths come just two weeks after military and police officers massacred 51 Morsi supporters at a nearby protest in east Cairo.
They also happened less than 24 hours after hundreds of thousands of anti-Morsi protesters gathered in Egyptian streets to give General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the army chief who ousted Morsi, their assent to crackdown on what he had on Wednesday called “terrorism”.
Sceptics say this is a euphemism for a violent campaign on largely peaceful Morsi supporters, who have held sit-ins and marches across several Egyptian cities since Morsi was overthrown – including at Rabaa al-Adawiya. For weeks, most Egyptian media have depicted pro-Morsi supporters as terrorists.
“It doesn’t make sense for a defence minister to ask people to give him authority to fight terrorism,” said Abdallah Hatem, a 19-year-old student from Cairo, on Friday.
“So his speech was a pretext for something else – a pretext to fight peaceful protesters who want Morsi to come back.”
File photo: Tens of thousands have been protesting against the coup near Rabaa El Adaweya mosque since June 28 (Photo by Hassan Ibrahim).
BY RANIA AL MALKY Cairo – Yesterday Egypt’s de facto leader Army Chief Abdel Fattah El-Sisi waged war against “possible terrorism” in the second 48-hour ultimatum he gives the Muslim Brotherhood in a month.
So much for the charade of civilian leadership when Sisi side-steps the interim president, prime minister, his deputies and cabinet (all unelected) and calls Egyptians into the streets to give the military a “mandate” to confront weeks of violence, in an ill-begotten statement Wednesday seen by many as a prelude to a massacre of pro-Morsi supporters who have maintained a sit-in since June 28.
A military official told Reuters that the army had given Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood a Saturday deadline to end its resistance and join a military-set road map to fresh elections, signaling a turning point in the confrontation, just as it vowed in a statement dubbed “Last Chance” yesterday to change its strategy in dealing with violence and “black terrorism”.
Last chance before what exactly, many are asking. How does the army define “terrorism”, how does it distinguish it from “possible terrorism” and on what legal basis will it deal with the latter? Besides, why would Egypt’s military leader ask for a mandate to protect the country from violence and terrorism, when the army has been doing just that in Sinai for months? Isn’t this it’s national duty and constitutional role?
With his previous dramatic July 1 ultimatum and the swift coup removing Egypt’s first democratically-elected civilian president on July 3, Sisi launched Egypt into what will likely become a protracted spiral of state-sponsored violence.
In three short weeks, over 200 people have been killed, mostly supporters of the deposed President Morsi in an unjustified use of excessive force by the army against peaceful protesters outside the Republican Guard Club in Cairo, according to a report by Human Rights Watch, where protesters believe Morsi is held incommunicado until today.
The coup and subsequent crackdown as well as the extra-legal arrest of hundreds of MB members and the freezing of their assets has divided families, exacerbated terrorist acts in the fragile North Sinai region and led to the random targeting of Christians who supported the Tamarod-Rebel campaign, by enraged individuals whose indignation at being denied the results of free and fair elections reflecting their choice merely a year after Morsi took office.
By far the worst outcome of the political stand-off between the MB and their opponents in the army, security apparatus, judiciary and political parties has been the emergence of a Goebelles-style propaganda industry spearheaded and bankrolled by Mubarak-era media tycoons and entirely co-opted by the state media’s official line.
In a carefully orchestrated, meticulously choreographed and coordinated media campaign to vilify the army’s opponents, Islamist or not, privately-owned media channels and newspapers have been instrumental in creating and propagating a false narrative of what is happening in Egypt today.
In a New York Times story published as early as July 6, a reporter at one newspaper says that her editor had given his staff “explicit instructions not to report on pro-Morsi demonstrations and to make sure that articles indicated that the perpetrators of violence were always Islamists.” Neutral, professional and accurate foreign news outlets too have been accused of publishing “misinformation” in a throwback to the exact same claims made in January 2011 that led to an unprecedented wave of xenophobia and citizens arrests of foreigners. Ironically, many of Egypt’s educated, liberal, secular twitterati have adopted the same line.
As Hitler wrote in “Mein Kampf”, “Propaganda tries to force a doctrine on the whole people… Propaganda works on the general public from the standpoint of an idea and makes them ripe for the victory of this idea” – a strategy that ultimately led to the gas chambers and concentration camps of Nazi Germany.
Not unlike his Nazi counterpart and military dictators closer to home like Nasser, Sisi’s propaganda campaigns are creating an atmosphere tolerant of violence against Islamists, encouraging passivity and acceptance of the impending measures against them, as these appear to depict the government as stepping in and “restoring order”, at the same time cultivating a facade of “popular will and support” through calls for mass street protests.
As the current leadership U-turned on Morsi’s anti-Bashar Al Assad strategy, the hate campaigns have targeted Syrian refugees in Egypt fleeing their own military-led civil war. HRW has reported that Egyptian police had arrested 72 Syrian men and nine boys on July 19 and 20 alone, including registered asylum seekers and at least nine with valid visas or residence permits. At least 14 were threatened with deportation.
Little wonder that much of the “general public” is unaware of basic facts. Many cannot conceive of the notion that Egyptian army soldiers would kill their “brothers” in cold blood and with no provocation and have thus readily accepted the quantum shift in the depiction of the MB as political opponents to the MB as terrorists.
And hence in the spirit of “revolution” and a false perception that June 30 corrected the erroneous path adopted post-January 25, when in fact it marked the triumph of the counterrevolution, many are misguidedly embracing Sisi’s ominous call to give his soldiers the cover to stage yet another massacre to add to a shameful record manifested in Maspero in October 2011 and dates back decades to Nasser’s reign of terror in the 1950s and 1960s. The uncanny resemblance between the seismic events of 1954 and 2013 (complete with supporting TV series, music and press) reinforces my conviction that military juntas don’t negotiate but annihilate and that they never miraculously metamorphose into democracies.
While the MB’s role in raising the potential for violent confrontation between Egyptians is undeniable, adamantly refusing to budge from their essential demand to reinstate Morsi as a precondition to any negotiation, the group’s stance is a legally justified expression of political dissent against the toppling of Morsi’s democratic legitimacy.
It has also become abundantly clear that MBs’ so-called militias are a figment of someone’s twisted imagination. The balance of real power between the two sides of the political divide is lopsided, even unfit for comparison: Army and police with their advanced weapons, their propaganda machines and networks of thugs, versus hundreds of thousands of mostly unarmed protesters with only a fraction carrying birdshot rifles, homemade handguns, wooden clubs and stones to protect themselves from the ever-present fear of mob attacks invigorated by the selective presence of a police force always ready to look the other way when they’re attacked.
As one protester from Rabaa Al Adaweya told me, “We will never accept the humiliation of the past, the torture and mutilations of the state security apparatus. If they want to kill us for fighting for our right to live with dignity, so be it.”
For Sisi’s “possible terrorists” the fight is not about Morsi, it’s personal.
So much for the ultimatum.
Rania Al Malky is the publisher of The Egypt Monocle.
By Tom Perry and Noah Browning
CAIRO | Sat Jul 27, 2013 9:56am EDT
(Reuters) – Egyptian security forces shot dead dozens of supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi on Saturday, witnesses said, days after the army chief called for a popular mandate to wipe out “violence and terrorism”.
Men in helmets and black police fatigues fired on crowds gathered before dawn on the fringes of a round-the-clock sit-in near a mosque in northeast Cairo, Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement said.
“They are not shooting to wound, they are shooting to kill,” said Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad. “The bullet wounds are in the head and chest.”
The bloodshed, near the military parade ground where President Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981, has rocked a country already struggling with the transition to democracy two years after Hosni Mubarak was swept from power.
A Muslim Brotherhood website said 120 people had been killed and some 4,500 injured. A Reuters reporter counted 36 bodies at one morgue, while health officials said there were a further 21 corpses in two nearby hospitals.
Activists rushed blood-spattered casualties into a makeshift hospital. Some were carried in on planks or blankets. One ashen teenager was laid out on the floor, a bullet hole in his head.
Egypt’s Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim accused the Brotherhood of exaggerating the death toll for political ends. He said only 21 people had died and denied police opened fire.
Ibrahim said local residents living close to the Rabaa al-Adawia mosque vigil had clashed with protesters in the early hours after they had blocked off a major bridge road. He said that police had used teargas to try to break up the fighting.
Well over 200 people have been killed in violence since the army toppled Mursi on July 3, following huge protests against his year in power. The army denies accusations it staged a coup, saying it intervened to prevent national chaos.
Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians had poured onto the streets on Friday in response to a call by army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for nationwide demonstrations to give him backing to confront the weeks-long wave of violence.
His appeal was seen as a challenge to the Brotherhood, which organized its own rallies on Friday calling for the return of Mursi, who has been held in an undisclosed location since his ousting and faces a raft of charges, including murder.
Ibrahim said Mursi was likely to be transferred shortly to the same Cairo prison where former leader Mubarak is now held.
Brotherhood leaders appealed for calm on Saturday, but activists at the Rabaa al-Adawia mosque vigil voiced fury.
“The people want the execution of Sisi,” a cleric shouted to the crowd from a stage by the mosque. “The people want the execution of the butcher.”
Interior Minister Ibrahim said the pro-Mursi sit-ins would “God willing, soon … be dealt with” based on a decision by a public prosecutor, who is reviewing complaints from local residents unhappy with the huge encampment on their doorstep.
The head of the Nour Party, the second-biggest Islamist group after the Brotherhood, called for an immediate investigation into what it called a “massacre.”
“There is no substitute for a political solution with the commitment of everyone to exercise restraint … and to renounce violence in all its forms, whether verbal or physical,” Younis Makhyoun said in a Facebook statement.
The Brotherhood is a highly organized movement with grassroots support throughout Egypt, making it hard to silence even if the army decides to mount a bigger crackdown.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she “deeply deplores” Saturday’s deaths and urged all sides to halt the violence. There was no immediate comment from the United States, which provides Egypt with some $1.5 billion dollars of aid a year, mainly military hardware.
Washington has delayed delivery of four F-16 fighters because of the turmoil. However, officials have indicated they do not intend to cut off aid to a country seen as a vital ally and which has a peace deal with neighboring Israel.
Witnesses said police first fired rounds of teargas at Brotherhood protesters gathered on a boulevard leading away from the Rabaa mosque, with live shots ringing out soon afterwards.
“There were snipers on the rooftops, I could hear the bullets whizzing past me,” said Ahmed el Nashar, 34, a business consultant, choking back his tears.
“Man, people were just dropping.”
Dr. Ibtisam Zein, overseeing the Brotherhood morgue, said most of the dead were hit in the head, some between the eyes.
The bodies were wrapped in white sheets and laid on the floor, their names scrawled on the shrouds. A cleaner busily mopped the floor, washing away pools of blood.
Haddad said the Brotherhood remained committed to pursuing peaceful protests, despite Saturday’s deaths – the second mass shooting of its supporters this month by security forces, who killed 53 people on July 8.
Brotherhood activists at Rabaa said they would not be cowed and warned of worse bloodshed if the security forces did not back down. “We will stay here until we die, one by one,” said Ahmed Ali, 24, helping treat casualties at the field hospital.
“We have the examples of Algeria and Syria in our minds. We don’t want it to become a civil war. If we take up arms it might become one. This is a religious belief.”
(Additional reporting by Shadia Nasralla, Yasmine Saleh, Tom Finn, Maggie Fick, Omar Fahmy, Edmund Blair, Michael Georgy and Ahmed Tolba in Cairo, Abdel Rahman Youssef in Alexandria; Writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Louise Ireland, Michael Georgy and Mike Collett-White)