Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi has proposed disbanding the Muslim Brotherhood of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, the government said yesterday, raising the stakes in a bloody struggle between the state and Islamists for control of the country.
Live television showed a gunman firing at soldiers and police from the minaret of a central Cairo mosque, with security forces shooting back at the building where Morsi followers had taken shelter.
The Egyptian Ministry of the Interior said 173 people died in clashes across Egypt on Friday, bringing the death toll from three days of carnage to almost 800.
Among those killed was the son of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie, who was shot dead during a protest in Cairo’s huge Ramses Square, where about 95 people died on Friday.
Egyptian authorities said they had rounded up more than 1,000 Islamists and surrounded Ramses Square following Friday’s “Day of Rage,” called by the Brotherhood to denounce a lethal crackdown on its followers on Wednesday.
Witnesses said tear gas was fired into the mosque prayer room to try to flush everyone out and gunshots were heard.
With anger rising on all sides and no sign of a compromise, Beblawi proposed the legal dissolution of the Brotherhood — a move that would force the group underground and could lead to a broad crackdown.
Meanwhile, the ministry said that 1,004 Muslim Brotherhood “elements” had been arrested in the past 24 hours, accusing members of Morsi’s movement of committing acts of terrorism.
Amongst those detained yesterday was Mohamed al-Zawahiri, the brother of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, security sources said.
The ministry said that since Wednesday, 57 policemen were killed and 563 wounded.
Many of Egypt’s Western allies have denounced the recent violence, including the US, but Saudi Arabia threw its weight behind the army-backed government on Friday, accusing the Muslim Brotherhood of trying to destabilize Egypt.
Worryingly for the army, violence was reported across Egypt on Friday, suggesting it will struggle to impose control on the vast, largely desert state.