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Key Egyptian religious party condemns bloodshed; death toll at 51

CAIRO -- The prominent, ultraconservative Nour Party condemned the deaths of at least 51 people in clashes between the army’s Republican Guard and Islamist protesters outside a military headquarters on Monday.

The military is dealing “with human beings, not animals, so how can you target people like that?” said Nour spokesman Nader Bakar. “This is something that cannot be justified. This is a degradation of blood. Where is the military's self-control and restraint?”

Authorities said a “terrorist group” attempted to storm the Republican Guard headquarters, killing one soldier and two policemen. The violence erupted as supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood were staging a sit-in against the army takeover last week that forced Morsi from power.

PHOTOS: Turmoil in Egypt

Since the ouster of Morsi and the Brotherhood, political forces, including Nour, have been negotiating how to handle Egypt’s increasingly troubled transitional phase, especially in light of large pro-Morsi rallies that have resulted in clashes that have killed scores in recent days.

Nour, which believes in the literal interpretation of the Koran, plays a pivotal role. It sided against the Brotherhood last week and joined a coalition of secular and religious parties to form a coalition government. But following Monday's violence, Nour, facing increasing pressure from the Islamist camp, withdrew from negotiations. That is likely to consolidate Islamist forces and set back the military’s efforts to impose stability. 

Bakar said Nour, which won about 25% of parliament last year, has yet to decide its next move. But Bakar said the attack on the Republican Guards’ headquarters, which also injured 435 people, did not justify the army’s response. 
 
"Even if people are attacking one of the headquarters of the Republican Guards, do you kill 50 people? Maybe you kill one, or two, or three people, maybe you arrest dozens, or at least shoot at their legs and arms," he said, adding that most wounds were to the head.

He added that the harsh treatment of pro-Morsi supporters would drag the country “into a civil war. . . You are turning those people on the streets into people who have nothing left to lose.”

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Times staff writer Jeffrey Fleishman contributed to this report

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