CAIRO — Stones and gunfire killed at least six people early Tuesday as clashes between opponents and supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi intensified near Cairo University, which has become a central battleground in the country’s political unrest.
Violence between the two camps -- sometimes with the army and police in the middle -- has escalated in recent days as each side has provoked the other. More than 90 people have been killed nationwide since Morsi was toppled by a coup on July 3.
Thousands of Morsi supporters have been staging sit-ins at the university and across the Nile at the Rabaa al Adawiya mosque. Most of the anti-Morsi contingent has been hunkered in Tahrir Square. The sides have been edging closer to each other, including a march on the U.S. Embassy by pro-Morsi demonstrators Monday that sparked fighting with protesters in nearby Tahrir.
Supplies of smuggled weapons have increased the bloodshed. Both factions say they have been targeted by snipers. Pistols, including homemade guns, have often been used and many men stand on the front lines like urban warriors, wearing construction helmets and carrying shields of corrugated tin.
Interim President Adly Mahmoud Mansour has called for reconciliation that will turn to “a new page in the nation’s book. No contempt, no hatred, no divisions and no collisions.”
A political solution remains elusive. Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood party said it would not end its sit-ins or cooperate with the military-backed government until Morsi, the country’s first freely elected president, is reinstated. That is highly improbable, especially as a new coalition government has begun amending the constitution and preparing for parliamentary elections in six months.
The clashes highlight the country’s polarization but Morsi supporters do not appear to have the numbers to stop a political process that is moving quickly without their input or participation. The former president has been detained by the military without formal charges. His family has demanded his release, blaming the army for kidnapping him and arresting hundreds of Brotherhood members.
On Monday, Morsi’s daughter Shaimaa told reporters: "We hold the leaders of the bloody military coup fully responsible for the safety and security of the president."