Egypt Islamists Call for Week of Rallies Amid Deaths Rise

Islamists in Egypt called for a week of rallies to denounce the government’s deadly crackdown on protesters seeking the reinstatement of President Mohamed Mursi.

“The coalition reiterates its demand of reinstating legitimacy,” the National Coalition for Legitimacy, an Islamist group made up of the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters, said in a statement. “Bloodshed will water the tree of freedom.”

Thousands of Egyptians poured into the streets of Cairo yesterday after Friday prayers, crossing bridges and passing troops backed by tanks and helicopters, until they reached Ramsis Square, the focal point of protests. At least 27 people died in the ensuing violence, state-run Ahram Online said, while the Brotherhood put the toll at about 100. Dozens more died in clashes outside the capital in the provinces of Giza, Alexandria, Fayoum Ismailiya, Damietta, Port Said and Gharbiya.

The Aug. 14 storming by police of two pro-Mursi protest camps in squares in Cairo and Giza, and conflicts that erupted across Egypt afterward, left at least 578 people dead and deepened fault lines between Islamists and their rivals. Before the crackdown, about 200 people had been killed in clashes between protesters and security forces since Mursi’s July 3 ouster.

The army, which ousted and detained Mursi last month, assumed responsibility for order as a state of emergency and curfews were declared after the raids. The government authorized security forces to use live ammunition to repel attacks on personnel or government buildings, and says it won’t allow any more sit-ins.

Sustaining Protests

“Every sign we’ve gotten from the military is that they don’t intend to settle, they intend to win,” Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said in an interview. “If there’s a single organization in Egypt that can sustain protests for months if not years in the face of organized repression, it’s the Brotherhood, so Egypt as a calm and predictable environment will be some ways off.”

The assault on Aug. 14 turned into the bloodiest day in Egypt’s recent history and drew international condemnation, with France and Germany calling for a meeting of European Union foreign ministers to look for ways to respond to the crisis. The United Nations Security Council called for restraint.

In neighborhoods across Cairo yesterday, civilians set up makeshift roadblocks using rocks, sandbags and chairs. Watch groups closed off streets and checked identification papers and driver’s licenses before letting people pass, and carried sticks and sharpened knives to protect their areas.

Anyone who breaks the 7 p.m-to-6 a.m. curfew will be dealt with “decisively,” the army said.

Mosque Siege

In Ramsis Square, a fire at state-owned construction company Arab Contractors burned for hours. Demonstrators hurled Molotov cocktails at the building, sparking the blaze, and Brotherhood members prevented emergency vehicles from approaching the scene until about 10:30 p.m. local time, state TV said.

Egyptian security forces besieged the al-Fath mosque in Ramsis Square, with Muslim Brotherhood supporters stuck inside into this morning, Al Jazeera television reported, citing a reporter at the scene. About 5,000 people were trapped, Shaima Awad, a woman at the mosque, told the Doha-based broadcaster in a telephone interview. Live footage on Al Jazeera showed security forces using tear gas.

Dozens of churches were burned down or came under attack. Islamists have blamed Egypt’s Christian minority for supporting Mursi’s overthrow. The Brotherhood denied it was responsible and has said its protests would be peaceful.

At least 16 people were killed and 140 injured in clashes in Egypt’s second city of Alexandria yesterday.

‘Fighting Terrorism’

Text running along the bottom of state TV broadcasts read “Egypt is fighting terrorism” and “Egypt is against terrorism.” Authorities arrested 263 in Cairo events yesterday, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported.

The Egyptian armed forces captured 439 “terrorists” and lawbreakers across the country, Ahmed Ali, a military spokesman, said on his Facebook Inc. page.

The United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Libya said they backed Egyptian authorities in that fight against “terrorism.” Kuwait said it supports the efforts of authorities to restore calm and stability, while calling for restraint.

Egypt’s benchmark Eurobonds slumped for a third day yesterday, pushing the yield up 16 basis points to 9.17 percent.

Obama’s Action

President Barack Obama said on Aug. 15 that he has called off a joint U.S. military exercise with Egypt scheduled to begin next month, and warned that Egypt’s military-backed government has embarked on a “dangerous path.” He stopped short of cutting off the $1.3 billion in aid that the U.S. provides to the Egyptian army, its decades-old ally.

Members of the alliance that backed the army’s removal of Mursi started to condemn the crackdown. Yesterday, Khaled Dawoud, the spokesman for the National Salvation Front, a bloc of groups that galvanized support for protests leading to Mursi’s ouster, quit. Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate, resigned as vice president Aug. 14, saying he didn’t want to bear responsibility for “bloodshed that could have been avoided.”

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