Thousands of Muslim Brotherhood take to Cairo streets
on 16/08/2013 12:36:40
The protesters poured out of the mosques after Friday prayers, responding to the group's call for a "Day of Rage" following the deaths of 638 people on Wednesday.
Riot police backed by armoured vehicles, snipers and bulldozers smashed the two sit-ins in Cairo where ousted President Mohammed Morsi's supporters had been camped out for six weeks to demand his reinstatement.
The government has authorised the use of deadly force against protesters targeting police and state institutions while the international community has urged both sides in Egypt to show restraint and end the turmoil engulfing the nation.
US President Barack Obama axed joint US-Egypt military exercises scheduled for next month, although he gave no indication that he planned to cut off its military aid to the country. The US administration has avoided declaring Mr Morsi's ousting a coup, which would force it to suspend the military aid.
"While we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back," Mr Obama said.
Mr Obama said he had also ordered his national security team to "assess the actions taken by the interim government and further steps that we may take as necessary with respect to the US-Egyptian relationship."
The turmoil is the latest chapter in a bitter stand-off between Mr Morsi's supporters and the interim leadership that took over following a July 3 coup. It came after millions of Egyptians took to the streets to demand Mr Morsi step down, accusing him of giving the Brotherhood undue influence and failing to implement vital reforms or bolster the ailing economy.
Mr Morsi has been held at an undisclosed location ever since. Other Brotherhood leaders, including several arrested on Wednesday, have been charged with inciting violence or conspiring in the killing of protesters.
Thousands marched on one of the bridges across the Nile River in Cairo, chanting in support of the Brotherhood and against the military coup.
The Brotherhood's political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, said in a statement today that the group is not backing down and "will continue to mobilise people to take to the streets without resorting to violence and without vandalism."
"The struggle to overthrow this illegitimate regime is an obligation, an Islamic, national, moral, and human obligation which we will not steer away from until justice and freedom prevail, and until repression is conquered," the statement said.
Separately, the Brotherhood's supreme guide Mohammed Badie, wanted by police for allegedly inciting violence, warned in a statement that removing Mr Morsi was an attempt for the military to take over and establish a "dictatorship".
The revolutionary and liberal groups that helped topple Mr Morsi have largely stayed away from street rallying in recent weeks.
Many Egyptians, while voicing concern over the scale of the police attacks this week, are supportive of the government's decision to the clear out the Brotherhood-led sit-ins and protests, which blocked two main intersections in the capital and clogged traffic.