Tens of thousands of supporters and opponents of President Morsi join protests across Egypt with violent clashes between the rival parties reported in Alexandria, where police used tear gas as at least two people were killed and nearly 90 injured.
Security forces used tear gas to break up clashes between rival protesters in Alexandria, according to MENA news agency. According to Minister of Health Mohamed Mostafa Hamed, 88 people were injured there. One man died after being shot into the head.
Egyptian officials have also confirmed that a US citizen was killed in the violence, reportedly having been stabbed in the chest. His identity remains unconfirmed. RT’s Bel Trew says that according to reports, the American was a teacher who may have gone to the clashes to film them as part of a project.
“There were two deaths – an Egyptian, and an American who was wounded during the events. He was filming,” said General Amin Ezzeddin, a senior Alexandria security official.
Following the news the US State Department has warned Americans against all but essential travel to Egypt and said it would allow some nonessential staff and the families of personnel at the US Embassy in Cairo to leave the country.
There have also been reports that a foreign woman has been beaten and dragged for several meters at Cairo’s Tahrir Square as she was taking pictures and shooting videos of the demonstration there, according to Ahram Online. The scuffle occurred after the woman was asked to leave because she was a foreigner.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s headquarters in Alexandria were stormed by anti-Morsi demonstrators and set on fire, local media reported.
Overall, some 139 people got injured across the country, minister of health said.
Both President Morsi’s supporters and opponents held their rallies on Friday, while the wider opposition coalition is also expected to bring millions out on Sunday, calling for new elections.
“We are confident the Egyptian masses will go out in their millions in Egypt’s squares and streets on June 30 to confirm their will to get the January 25 revolution back on track,” the liberal opposition coalition said.
RT’s correspondent in Egypt Bel Trew reported that “the country is worried that there will be further violence after several days of clashes between rival groups, demonstrating either in support of the president or against him.”
In the capital, thousands of people marched towards Tahrir Square, chanting slogans against President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Marches in Cairo originated from Mostafa Mahmoud Square, Sayeda Zeinab, Al-Azhar Mosque and Shubra, Ahram Online reports.
In the light of the rallies, local residents have been withdrawing cash, queuing outside petrol stations and stocking up on food, according to AFP. Many companies said they would close on the first day of the working week in Egypt, Sunday, when the large-scale opposition rally is due to take place.
The army, which helped protesters overthrow previous President Hosni Mubarak, has warned that it could step back in to impose order should violence spin out of control.
“Protest comes amidst a growing security crisis across the country. We’ve already seen several people die, hundreds injured in the days leading up to the protests. We’re seeing an increase of civilians armed and bringing those weapons to protests which has led many to call for the army to step in and secure the nation,” Bel Trew added.
Earlier this week one man was shot dead and four wounded in an attack on a provincial party office, Egypt’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood said. The incident, which took place north of Cairo, raised the death toll to five in factional fighting that also left many injured over the past week, with fears of wider violence during the upcoming protests, two years after the Arab Spring revolution that ousted Mubarak.
Egypt’s leading religious authority warned of “civil war” and called for calm in response to the death of the member of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood, Reuters reported.
“Vigilance is required to ensure we do not slide into civil war,” Al-Azhar clerical institution said in a statement reported by state media.
The Arab world’s most influential and one of the largest Islamic movements, the Muslim Brotherhood, has slammed activists campaigning to force the fifth president of Egypt, 61-year-old Morsi, to resign as he celebrates his first year in office.
On Thursday, the opposition National Salvation Front coalition refused Morsi’s offer to cooperate on reforms to end a political deadlock that has driven the biggest Arab nation into economic crisis, and called instead for an early presidential election.
Morsi’s critics primarily see him as a Muslim Brotherhood delegate, appointing Islamists in key positions, returning Egypt to authoritarianism.
“I think it goes without saying, and Morsi himself has partially admitted it, that he has disappointed people. As far as those people who helped to bring Mubarak down or a sizable section of them he’s changed absolutely nothing since he came to power and these protests are to show that the democratic fig leaf is not enough. So what will happen on Sunday will be quite decisive,” author and journalist Tariq Ali told RT.
Ali says Egypt is divided between those who seek an evolution towards democracy, and those who are still in the mind-set of the old regime.
“It’s not the case that he [Morsi] is bereft of support, it’s just that the country is now very sharply divided between those who want some meaningful change and he government which is maintaining continuity with the previous regime and in some instances getting worse.”
Morsi’s Islamist supporters emphasize that he derives his authority from the first free presidential election in Egypt’s history, and that the challenges he faces, namely corrupt and inefficient institutions, economic woes and religious strife have all been inherited.
In a televised speech on Wednesday, Morsi warned that political polarization threatened to “paralyze” Egypt.
He has also admitted making mistakes and pledged to correct them.
“I have made many mistakes, there is no question. Mistakes can happen, but they need to be corrected,” he said.
Morsi threatened legal action against several prominent figures, claiming some judges were obstructing him, and accused liberal media owners of bias.
Shortly afterwards, he publicly accused the owner of CBC television of tax evasion, Mohamed Amin found he was barred from leaving the country. “This is dictatorship,” his lawyer told Reuters.
Officials also ordered the arrest of a talk show host on another channel and the station to be shut down for inciting mutiny in the army and for insulting the armed forces and the police.
Last week, tens of thousands of Islamists got together, chanting for Morsi and Islamic law, calling the turnout proof that he enjoys mass support and accusing the opposition of being remnants of Mubarak’s regime.
Under the thumb of the Mubarak regime the Muslim Brotherhood was essentially barred from assuming a leadership role in Egypt’s government.
However, According to Taqadom Al Khatib of the National Association for Change, a member of the opposition, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood simply seem to lack any solutions for the country’s pressing economic and political situation now that they have managed to secure control. More so, the Brotherhood seems to be mimicking some of the autocratic behavior of the Mubarak regime.
“We have an economic problem, and many political and social problems. The Muslim Brotherhood have no solutions for these problems. People in Egypt want social justice, freedom and democracy. The Muslim Brotherhood is building a new dictatorship. The government has sent official letters to TV channels, claiming that they have the power to close them down, without any court order,” says Al Khatib.
Al Khatib’s group is one of several calling for early elections. According to Al Khatib, both the US and other Western powers are unlikely to offer any support for Morsi’s ouster, in part as they rely on his government to support policy against Iran in the region.