Stand off as Egypt security forces ‘surround protesters in mosque’
Cairo: Egyptian security forces today surrounded a Cairo mosque full of supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi as the Muslim Brotherhood planned fresh marches after clashes left nearly 100 dead, raising fears of more violence that will further push the country into chaos.
The Al-Fateh mosque near Ramses Square in central Cairo has become the latest flashpoint in the growing crisis after more than 1,000 people reportedly sought refuge following yesterday's clashes between protesters primarily aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood and security forces.
Protesters took those killed and wounded in the clashes to the mosque, where the Muslim Brotherhood established a makeshift field hospital.
Police reportedly said women could leave the mosque but men would be held for questioning – an offer rejected by those inside.
Security officials quoted by the official Mena news agency said "armed elements" had opened fire from inside the mosque. They said that people were being prevented from leaving the mosque by protesters.
But other media reports said that people trapped inside the mosque were afraid to leave because they believed they would be attacked by plainclothes "thugs" aligned with the military.
Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood called for a week of protests across Egypt starting from today.
"Our rejection of the coup regime has become an Islamic, national and ethical obligation that we can never abandon," said the Brotherhood, which has accused Egypt's military of plotting the downfall of Morsi last month to regain the levers of power.
In the worst of the violence yesterday, at least 95 people were killed and hundreds injured in Cairo's Ramses Square as security forces opened fire on Morsi supporters, who took to the streets after Friday prayers to protest the killing of over 600 in a crackdown by the military-backed government on Wednesday.
Egypt's interim officials say more than 1,000 Islamists were arrested after yesterday's protests – dubbed a "day of anger".
"The number of Muslim Brotherhood elements arrested reached 1,004," the interior ministry said in a statement.
An interim cabinet, installed by the army after it removed Morsi during rallies against his rule, has refused to back down in the face of the protests. It has authorised police to use live ammunition to defend themselves and state installations.
Bader Abdel Atty, a spokesman for the Egyptian foreign ministry, defended the actions of the security forces in an interview with Al Jazeera, saying that protesters were armed with machine guns.
He dismissed international condemnation of the violence and said Egypt would accept no external interference.
Egypt's interim leaders have imposed a state of emergency with dusk-to-dawn curfews in the capital and other areas. The interior ministry says police have been authorised to use live ammunition "within a legal framework".
The Muslim Brotherhood has been on the streets since July 3 after the army deposed Morsi – Egypt's first democratically elected president – last month and installed an interim government.