Cairo — At least 42 people were killed on Monday when Islamist demonstrators enraged by the military overthrow of Egypt’s elected President Mohamed Mursi said the army opened fire during morning prayers at the Cairo barracks where he is being held.
But the military said “a terrorist group” tried to storm the Republican Guard compound and one army officer had been killed and 40 wounded. Soldiers returned fire when they were attacked by armed assailants, a military source said.
The emergency services said more than 320 were wounded in a sharp escalation of Egypt’s political crisis, and Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood urged people to rise up against the army, which they accuse of a military coup to remove the elected leader.
At a hospital near the Rabaa Adawia mosque where Islamists have camped out since Mursi was toppled on Wednesday, rooms were crammed with people wounded in the violence, sheets were stained with blood and medics rushed to attend to the wounded.
As an immediate consequence, the ultra-conservative Islamist Nour party, which initially backed the military intervention, said it was withdrawing from stalled negotiations to form an interim government for the transition to fresh elections.
The military has said that the overthrow was not a coup, and it was enforcing the will of the people after millions took to the streets on June 30 to call for his resignation.
But pro- and anti-Mursi protests took place in Cairo, Alexandria and other cities, and resulted in clashes on Friday and Saturday that left 35 dead.
It leaves the Arab world’s largest nation of 84 million people in a perilous state, with the risk of further enmity between people on either side of the political divide while an economic crisis deepens.
SHOTS DURING PRAYERS
Abdelaziz Abdelshakua, from Sharqia Province northeast of Cairo, was wounded in his right leg with what he says was a live round.
“We were praying the dawn prayer and we heard there was shooting,” he said, adding an army officer assured them no one was shooting, then suddenly they came under fire from the direction of the Republican Guard.
“They shot us with teargas, birdshot, rubber bullets – everything. Then they used live bullets.”