Egypt: New clashes kill 2 as Morsi backers defiant

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CAIRO (AP) — Deadly clashes broke out during funerals of slain supporters of Egypt’s ousted Islamist president Sunday, as the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood urged his supporters to stand fast after more than 70 of them were killed in weekend violence.

Setting the stage for more confrontation, the military-installed interim president gave the prime minister the power to grant the military the right to arrest civilians in what government officials said could be a prelude to a major crackdown on deposed President Mohammed Morsi’s supporters or Islamic militants who have stepped up attacks against security forces in the Sinai Peninsula.


SEE ALSO: CAIR calls on Obama to condemn attacks against Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood


The extent of the bloodshed has dashed hopes of reconciliation between the country’s two camps, sharply divided over the July 3 military coup that removed Egypt’s first freely elected president following protests by millions of Egyptians demanding that he step down.

Islamists staunchly reject the new leadership and insist the only possible solution to the crisis is to reinstate MR. Morsi. Meanwhile, the interim leadership is pushing ahead with a fast-track transition plan to return to a democratically elected government by early next year.

Egypt’s interior minister, who in charge of the police, also pledged to deal decisively with any attempts to destabilize the country, a thinly veiled warning to Morsi supporters occupying two squares in Cairo in a monthlong standoff with security forces.

The international community, meanwhile, urged restraint.

U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry issued a strongly worded statement on Saturday, saying he told Egyptian authorities it is “essential” they respect the right to peaceful protest. He called on all sides to enter a “meaningful political dialogue” to “help their country take a step back from the brink.”

The worst bout of violence since Mr. Morsi’s ouster took place before dawn on Saturday when police and armed men in civilian clothes opened fire on his supporters as they sought to expand their sit-in camp by moving onto a nearby main boulevard.

Authorities conceded that the vast majority of the 72 killed in Cairo were demonstrators, but the Interior Ministry said some policemen also were wounded as the military-backed administration sought to defend the bloodshed.

Officials from Mr. Morsi’s Brotherhood and their allies decried what they called a new “massacre” against their side, which occurred only weeks after clashes on July 8 with army troops in Cairo that left more than 50 Morsi supporters dead.

Civilians, sometimes with weapons, frequently have joined police in Cairo demonstrations. In some cases, they appear to be plainclothes police; in others, residents who back the security forces.

A video posted Sunday on social networking sites show policemen and men in civilian clothes pointing their rifles at the protesters wearing industrial helmets and homemade body armor and standing behind makeshift barricades.

Another video, posted by the Interior Ministry, shows protesters hurling stones and firebombs at the security forces from behind their barricades. One masked man was shown shooting at the police with what appeared to be a large silver-plated pistol.

The authenticity of the videos could not be independently verified, but they generally conformed with Associated Press reporting.

No army troops were on the scene, but the international community and human rights groups expressed concern that the military had allowed the carnage to occur.

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