In Cairo: Several Killed, Hundreds Injured, As President Calls For Dialogue

Dec 6, 2012
Originally published on December 6, 2012 5:26 pm

Update at 4:00 p.m. ET. Morsi Calls For National Dialogue:

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi called for national dialogue in a televised address today.

Morsi spoke amid escalating violence over a draft constitution and a presidential decree that granted him near-absolute power.

"I call for a full, productive dialogue with all figures and heads of parties, revolutionary youth and senior legal figures to meet this Saturday," Morsi said according to Al Arabiya.

But Morsi said he would neither rescind his decree nor pull the draft constitution, which is scheduled for a vote Dec. 15.

The Associated Press reports that Morsi "accused some of the opposition protesters of serving remnants of the old regime and vowed never to tolerate anyone working for the overthrow of his 'legitimate" government.'"

"While we express the right to freedom of expression, I cannot tolerate that any person perpetrate the killing of any person. I cannot tolerate any act of killing or vandalism," Morsi said.

Reuters reports that the oppositon coalition, the National Salvation Front, said it was assessing the offer.

"We are discussing it with our members and youths," spokesman Hussein Abdel-Ghani told Reuters.

Our Original Post Continues:

After violent clashes in Cairo that "stretched from Wednesday afternoon into the early hours of Thursday" left as many as seven people dead and more than 700 wounded, intervention by soldiers and tanks restored some calm for some hours, al-Jazeera reports.

But, it adds, "violence had picked up again by Thursday afternoon as the opposing sides began throwing stones at each other, despite the military presence."

The Guardian reported just after noon ET that "a large number of opposition activists are marching once again on the presidential palace in Cairo. The palace is now under heavy guard including soldiers, tanks, barbed wire and concrete blocks."

The unrest, as news outlets have been reporting, is over President Mohammed Morsi's declaration consolidating power in his position and the moves by his supporters to push through a new constitution.

It's midday now in the U.S., which means night is falling in Cairo. Morsi is supposed to address his nation in coming hours. We'll keep an eye on developments.

Our original post and earlier updates:

At least five people were killed overnight and more than 400 were wounded in clashes between supporters and opponents of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi outside the presidential palace in Cairo, NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports.

The country's military has now moved tanks into the area. CNN says that's an effort to "bring some calm to the country's latest center of turmoil." Whether calm will come, of course, is uncertain. Soraya tells our Newscast Desk, "there are calls from Morsi's supporters and detractors for more demonstrations outside the palace in the coming hours."

As she adds:

"The violence overnight was the worst since Morsi issued decrees in late November putting himself above the law [and followed clashes earlier on Wednesday]. His recent call for a national referendum on a controversial new constitution drafted by his allies is escalating the tensions.

"Two more Morsi advisers resigned in protest of the growing violence. In a statement, about a fifth of the Egyptian diplomatic corps demanded the foreign ministry not help with the constitutional referendum that begins this weekend for ex-pat Egyptians."

Morsi is scheduled to address his nation later today. We'll watch for more news from Cairo. Meanwhile, here are some of the headlines from other news outlets:

-- "Rivals Clash Despite Tanks At Egypt Presidential Palace." (Reuters)

-- "In Egypt, Protests Turn Violent As Political Crisis Intensifies." (The Washington Post)

-- "Mursi Branded Pharaoh As New Egypt Gives Way To Protests." (BloombergBusinessweek)

Note: NPR follows Associated Press style on the spelling of Morsi's name. Other news organizations do not.

Update at 11 a.m. ET. Some Order Restored?

Reuters writes that "Egypt's Republican Guard restored order around the presidential palace on Thursday after fierce overnight clashes killed seven people, but passions ran high in a struggle over the country's future."

Whether "order" will remain restored for long is uncertain, of course.

Update at 9 a.m. ET. Funerals:

Hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood protesters left the area around the presidential palace earlier today, Soraya reports. They say they're going to attend the funerals of the people killed in overnight clashes, who they claim were pro-Morsi protesters.

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