'Day of Rage' erupts in Egypt
Aug 16, 2013 / 1:34 pm
Heavy gunfire rang out Friday throughout Cairo as tens of thousands of supporters of Egypt's ousted president clashed with armed vigilantes in the fiercest street battles to engulf the capital since the country's Arab Spring uprising. At least 64 people were killed in the fighting nationwide, including police officers.
Carrying pistols and assault rifles, residents battled with protesters taking part in what the Muslim Brotherhood called a "Day of Rage," ignited by anger at security forces for clearing two sit-in demonstrations Wednesday in clashes that killed more than 600 people.
Military helicopters circled overhead as residents furious with the Brotherhood protests pelted them with rocks and glass bottles. The two sides also fired on one another, sparking running street battles throughout the capital's residential neighbourhoods.
There was little hope that an evening curfew would curb the violence as the Muslim Brotherhood called on supporters of the country's ousted Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, to stage daily protests.
Unlike in past clashes between protesters and police, Friday's violence took an even darker turn with residents and possibly police in civilian clothing battling those participating in the Brotherhood-led marches. There were few police in uniform to be seen as neighbourhood watchdogs and pro-Morsi protesters fired at one another for hours on a bridge that crosses over Cairo's Zamalek district, an upscale island neighbourhood where many foreigners and ambassadors reside.
Across the country, at least 56 civilians were killed, along with eight police officers, security officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
The violence erupted shortly after midday weekly prayers when tens of thousands of Brotherhood supporters answered the group's call to protest across Egypt in defiance of a military-imposed state of emergency following the bloodshed earlier this week.
Armed civilians manned impromptu checkpoints throughout the capital, banning Brotherhood marches from approaching and frisking anyone wanting to pass through. At one checkpoint, residents barred ambulances and cars carrying wounded from Cairo's main battleground, Ramses Square, from reaching a hospital.
The scenes highlighted how dangerous the divisions in Egypt have become. At least nine police stations were attacked Friday, officials said. Egypt's police force was rocked by the country's 2011 uprising that ousted longtime leader Hosni Mubarak from power and has not fully recovered since.
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