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Egyptian security forces shoot dead 150 Morsi supporters

28 July, 2013

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CAIRO: The Egyptian security forces opened indiscriminate fire at dozens of supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi on Saturday and killed as many as 150 people, witnesses said, days after the army chief called for a popular mandate to wipe out "violence and terrorism," Press TV reported.

Men in helmets and black police fatigues fired at the crowds gathered before dawn on the fringes of a round-the-clock sit-in near a mosque in northeast Cairo, Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood said.

"They are not shooting to wound, they are shooting to kill," said Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad. "The bullet wounds are in the head and chest." A Muslim Brotherhood website said 150 people had been killed and some 4,500 injured. A Reuters reporter counted 36 bodies at one morgue, while health officials said there were a further 21 corpses in two nearby hospitals.

Activists rushed blood-spattered casualties into a makeshift hospital; some were carried in on planks or blankets. One ashen teenager was laid out on the floor, a bullet hole in his head.

Egypt's Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim told reporters only 21 had died and denied police had opened fire, accusing the Brotherhood of exaggerating for political ends.

Ibrahim said local residents living close to the Rabaa al-Adawia mosque vigil had clashed with protesters in the early hours after they had blocked off a major road bridge. He said that the police had used teargas to try to break up the fighting.

Well over 200 people had been killed in violence since the army toppled Morsi on July 3, following huge protests against his year in power. The army denied accusations it staged a coup, saying it intervened to prevent national chaos.

The Arab world's most populous state is battling economic woes and struggling with the transition to democracy two years after Hosni Mubarak was swept from power in the Arab Spring.

Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians had poured onto the streets on Friday in response to a call by army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for nationwide demonstrations to give him backing to confront the weeks-long wave of violence.

His appeal was seen as a challenge to the Brotherhood, which organised its own rallies on Friday calling for the return of Morsi, who has been held in an undisclosed location since his ousting and faces a raft of charges, including murder.

Brotherhood leaders appealed for calm on Saturday, but activists at the Rabaa al-Adawia mosque vigil voiced their fury. "The people want the execution of Sisi," a cleric shouted to the crowd from a stage by the mosque. "The people want the execution of the butcher." Interior Minister Ibrahim said the pro-Morsi sit-ins would "God willing, soon ... be dealt with" based on a decision by a public prosecutor, who is reviewing complaints from local residents unhappy with the huge encampment on their doorstep.

The Brotherhood is a highly organised movement with grassroots support throughout Egypt, making it hard to silence even if the army decides to mount a bigger crackdown. European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she "deeply deplores" Saturday's deaths and urged all sides to halt the violence. There was no immediate comment from the United States, which provides Egypt with some $1.5 billion dollars of aid a year, mainly military hardware.

Washington has delayed delivery of four F-16 fighters because of the turmoil. However, officials have indicated they do not intend to cut off aid to a country seen as a vital ally and which has a peace deal with neighbouring Israel.

End.

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