Troops did not open fire on supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi yesterday, an army spokesman said, after security sources said three demonstrators were shot dead by security forces in a protest near where Morsi is being held.
The spokesman said soldiers were using only blank rounds and teargas. It was unclear whether security forces other than the army were present.
The shootings came when hundreds of Morsi supporters marched on the Guard building, where Morsi was staying at the time of his ouster, before being taken into military custody in an unknown location. The crowd approached a barbed-wire barrier where troops were standing guard around the building.
When one supporter hung a sign of Morsi on the barrier, the troops tore it down and told the crowd to stay back. A protester hung a second sign and the soldiers opened fire on the crowd, an Associated Press photographer at the scene said. Several protesters fell bloodied to the ground. At least one had what appeared to be a severe, bleeding wound to the head.
The shooting risks to escalate Egypt’s confrontation, with supporters of Morsi — largely Islamists — rejecting the army’s ousting of the country’s first freely elected president on Wednesday night and installation of a new civilian administration. The protester casualties are likely to further fuel calls by some in the Islamist movement for violent retaliation.
The first major Islamic militant attack came before dawn yesterday in the tumultuous Sinai Peninsula, killing at least one soldier. Masked assailants launched a coordinated attack with rockets, rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft guns on 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, sparking nearly four hours of clashes.
The Brotherhood called for yesterday’s protests, which took place at several sites around the capital and in other cities. Brotherhood officials underlined strongly to their followers that their rallies should be peaceful.
A crowd of tens of thousands of Morsi supporters filled much of a broad boulevard outside a Cairo mosque several blocks away from the Republican Guard headquarters, vowing to remain in place until Morsi is restored. The protesters railed against what they called the return of the regime of former Egyptian Hosni Mubarak.
“The old regime has come back ... worse than before,” said Ismail Abdel-Mohsen, an 18-year old student among the crowds outside the Rabia al-Adawiya Mosque. He dismissed the new interim head of state sworn in a day earlier, senior judge Adly Mansour, as “the military puppet.”
The crowd began to march on the headquarters of the Republican Guard, many chanting, “After sunset, President Morsi will be back in the palace.”
The military forced Morsi out on Wednesday after millions of Egyptians turned out in four days of protests demanding his removal and saying he had squandered his electoral mandate by putting power in the hands of his own Muslim Brotherhood and other, harder-line Islamists. In the 48 hours since, the military has moved against the Brotherhood’s senior leadership, putting Morsi under detention and arresting the group’s supreme leader and a string of other figures.