Is Egypt headed for civil war? Deadly violence has raised the possibility of civil war. Reports say at least 40 people were killed by security forces at dawn on Monday outside the army barracks in Cairo, where it is believed that the deposed President Mohammed Morsi is confined. All the 40 people who were shot were supporters of the ousted president.
According to the Muslim Brotherhood spokesman, the dead included children. There are conflicting reports about how many were injured. The country’s military said only five supporters were injured. However, Egypt’s health ministry put the number at 322.
It is unclear how the events unfolded. Reports say that according to the country’s military, Morsi supporters tried to storm a Republican Guard facility in Cairo’s Nasr City. However, according to Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad, security forces opened fire on peaceful demonstrators who were staging a sit-in.
He said on his twitter account that people were attacked outside the Republican Guard facility as they prayed. He said police and military officials shot people in the feet, injuring some in the legs. He further stated that security forces also fired tear gas into the crowd of protesters.
The wounded were taken to a field hospital set up in the area. “We need doctors & medical supplies at the hospital,” El-Haddad said in one of his tweets.
“This is a crime against humanity,” said Hesham Al Ashry, an ultraconservative Islamist who was at the sit-in. However, he left before violence broke out.
Past events show that the country’s military has a history of using disproportionate and excessive force when dealing with protesters. In a cruel episode in 2011, the military crushed some demonstrators by running over them with their vehicles at a Coptic Christian rally. The event took place at Maspero in Cairo. According to reports, 27 people were killed in the incident.
Also, last week, military officers killed four unarmed Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators, in the same location.
The latest violence has raised the conflict between the country’s military and Morsi-supporters to a new level. Morsi supporters have called the ouster of Morsi a “military coup.” Some have vowed to keep on fighting until Morsi is released and restored as president.
They feel their votes were stolen when the democratically elected Morsi was removed from power. “We only came here to defend our vote,” said Nassser Ibrahim, a teacher, at a pro-Morsi rally Sunday afternoon not far from where Monday’s violence later erupted.
Anti-Morsi factions, on the other hand, support the military’s decision to remove Morsi and set the country on a new transitional route. They support the military’s move to suspend the constitution, and dissolved the legislature in order to set the country on a new road.
Many in Egypt worry that this new round of violence will further damage the fragile political system.
A hardline Islamist group in the country, the Nour Party said Monday that it was withdrawing from negotiations over who will be named to the new government in response to the “massacre.”
The party had also rejected the appointment of Mohamed ElBaradei, a liberal figure as prime minister. Reports say the group’s withdrawal from further talks does not bode well in the country’s efforts for a new transition.
Reports say dozens of Egyptians have been killed in clashes over the past week without the security forces intervening.
“Neither the police nor the military effectively intervened in deadly clashes between pro-and anti-Muslim Brotherhood supporters that left 36 people dead on July 5, 2013,” Human Rights Watch said.
By Perviz Walji