Armed forces opened fire during clashes with pro-Morsi protesters in Egypt today, leaving at least three of the ousted president’s supporters dead in Cairo, Reuters reported.
An army spokesperson denied reports that Egyptian troops killed the Morsi supporters, claiming that soldiers at the Cairo rally were using only blank rounds and teargas to control the crowd.
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood had earlier called for a day of protests Friday, two days after the military deposed President Mohamed Morsi and appointed an interim leader in his stead.
Tens of thousands turned out in response, across Egypt. The military has promised that demonstrations will be allowed to proceed, so long as they remain non-violent.
Urging its allies to join it in a day alternately called “Friday of Rejection” and “Friday of Rage,” the Brotherhood said it would not cooperate with Egypt’s “usurping authorities.”
“We declare our complete rejection of the military coup staged against the elected president and the will of the nation,” a Brotherhood spokesman told supporters camped outside the the Rabia al-Adawiya Mosque in Cairo, the Associated Press reported.
“We refuse to participate in any activities with the usurping authorities.”
“Peaceful protest and freedom of expression are rights guaranteed to everyone, which Egyptians have earned as one of the most important gains of their glorious revolution,” the armed forces’ commanding council said in a statement on its Facebook page, according to Reuters’ translation.
The council warned against “excessive” use of that right, however, which it said would endanger Egypt’s security and national interests. A military source told Reuters that troops and possibly air force jets would be deployed Friday to head off clashes between pro- and anti-Morsi demonstrators.
Violence broke out Thursday in Morsi’s home town of Zagazig between supporters demanding his reinstatement and opponents backing the military’s intervention, Egypt’s Ahram Online reported. Some 80 people were injured and 11 arrested for inciting unrest, authorities said.
Morsi supporters and opponents also clashed in Damanhur in northwest Egypt, and Morsi supporters attacked a police station in Giza, wounding one officer, according to MENA.
Meanwhile gunmen attacked army checkpoints, a police station and an airport in the northern Sinai peninsula Friday morning, security sources told the AP. It’s not clear whether the attacks were linked to the military take-over, though according to the AP some fear that Islamist extremists will seek to exact revenge for Morsi’s overthrow.
One soldier was killed and two were injured in the Sinai attacks, MENA reported.
The African Union suspended Egypt’s membership on Friday, saying the country would only be allowed to rejoin once consitutional order has been restored.
NATO’s secretary general has also expressed concern over the need for democratic governance in Egypt.
“I call on everyone to exercise restraint and refrain from violence, to respect human rights, including the rights of minorities, and the rule of law and to work to establish a democratic and inclusive civilian government as soon as possible,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Thursday.
Egypt’s interim authorities have promised that they will seek only to maintain security, not to punish supporters of the former government or exclude them from whatever comes next. That assurance will be crucial to keeping Western allies — notably the United States — onside, and holding on to valuable foreign aid.
While the military said in its Facebook statement that it would not take “any exceptional or arbitrary measures” against any political movement, several senior figures from the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies have been detained since Wednesday, including Morsi, his closest advisers, and the Brotherhood’s powerful “general guide” or supreme leader, Mohamed Badie. More than 200 others are wanted for questioning.