The only Islamist group to join the military in deposing the elected government of Mohammed Morsi says it will withdraw its support for the transition plan in response to what it calls a “massacre” of pro-Morsi supporters.
Egypt’s state news agency says at least 51 civilians are dead and over 400 injured after the Egyptian army opened fire on hundreds of Islamists who had been holding a sit-in outside the offices of the Republican Guard in Cairo.
The protesters were demanding that the army reinstate Mohammed Morsi to the presidency.
There are conflicting reports on what happened — government officials are saying that they came under attack first, Morsi supporters are claiming the shooting was unprovoked.
It’s the highest death toll since protesters started gathering to demand the ouster of Mohammed Morsi, and it’s raising fears that the country may descend into civil war.
- Rana Jawad, correspondent for the BBC, reporting from Cairo.
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Jeremy Hobson. It's HERE AND NOW. More than 50 civilians are dead in Egypt and hundreds more injured after the Egyptian army opened fire on hundreds of Islamists. They've been holding a sit-in to demand that the army reinstate deposed President Mohamed Morsi. There were also some military and police casualties. We are still getting the details, but the incident has already raised fears about a civil war in Egypt. The BBC's Rana Jawad is in Cairo. And, Rana, what do we know at this point about what happened?
RANA JAWAD: Well, we haven't been able to verify exactly what happened. There are deaths all around, clearly, a much, much higher death toll from the protesters. They say that they were attacked by the army, that the army opened fire on them while they were praying at dawn, essentially. And the army maintains that the protesters, some of them were armed and that they were the ones that opened fire first. And they deny that it was them who instigated this. They say they had a right to respond and that any country or army in any other country put in their position would have done the same.
HOBSON: What's been the reaction, the political reaction to this? I see that the interim president is ordering an investigation.
JAWAD: Well, he has ordered an investigation. How far that will go given things like the constitution being suspended at the moment, given the fact that there is no interim Cabinet that's been appointed yet, we'll have to see how far this goes. But they are all appealing for calm. We've also heard from Mohammed el-Baradei, one of the leading opposition spokespeople. He has come out and said, you know, violence begets violence, and he has appealed for calm as well and for an independent investigation.
So I think many sides now, even those who obviously sided and called for the military's intervention, when millions took to the streets and asked for President Morsi at the time to step down and he didn't, all these voices now slightly worried that this may get out of hand if there is a heavy backlash or heavy crackdown, rather, by the army on supporters of Mr. Morsi.
HOBSON: And this is not the only violence that's been seen in Egypt since the overthrow of Morsi. I mean paint the picture of what things are like right now. Is it chaotic, or are these just isolated incidents?
JAWAD: It depends on where you are. I have to say Egypt is a highly populated country, Cairo especially. I mean when we talk about protests, you know, millions showing up or at least hundreds of thousands on either sides of the camp whether they're anti-Morsi or pro-Morsi, that really just gives you an image of how many people around and clearly in the areas that they're stationed, you know, it's in complete lockdown almost. But other parts of Cairo in general, you know, traffic is normal.
People are going about their daily lives. You would think that there's nothing else happening, and it's not just in Cairo. There are continuing protests in Egypt's second city of Alexandria. There have been deaths there this week as well. And in Sinai, we've seen an increase in attacks on things like a gas pipeline, on police stations, on army checkpoints. I think a lot of Egyptians are now witnessing the kind of ripple effects of removing an Islamist president because the Muslim Brotherhood organization is known as a more moderate Islamist group.
But now, even the hard-line groups feel like they have a common purpose, and they will use it as an excuse to, you know, declare their own war against the army, if you will.
HOBSON: Rana Jawad, of the BBC, joining us from Cairo. Rana, thanks.
JAWAD: You're welcome. Thank you.
HOBSON: And Wednesday love to hear your thoughts on the unfolding story in Egypt. Was it a good idea to oust President Morsi? Go and let us know at hereandnow.org. And coming up, one Buddhist monk tries to stem the tide of suicide in Japan. We'll be back in one minute. HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.