CAIRO – An Egyptian government building was attacked and set ablaze Thursday, allegedly by supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, a day after security forces killed hundreds of pro-Morsi demonstrators while clearing two protest encampments.
As a rally organized by Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement passed in front of the Giza municipal building, protesters broke away from the march and tore down the gate, witnesses said. They threw Molotov cocktails into the two-story building and at government vehicles parked in the garage. Those inside the building included the Giza deputy mayor.
After the brutal crackdown Wednesday which left more than 500 dead and thousands injured, protests from Islamist groups as well as those opposing the military’s response were expected to continue.
The attack Thursday came amid reports of around two dozen churches and monasteries torched across the country and a museum looted.
Hours later, the Giza government building remained engulfed in smoke. Deputy Mayor Mahmood Ashmawi said he was surprised there wasn’t additional security around the building, given the tense atmosphere in Cairo. He was sitting on an office desk that had been brought outside as young men salvaged stacks of documents and dumped them into a pile.
“Anyways, we were facing 6,000 people,” he said of the Brotherhood rally. “How can we protect against that?”
Inside the building’s compound and in the street, tense young men armed with sticks, members of a neighborhood watch group, were pacing. Some raced forward when they heard the sound of nearby gunfire.
"Kill them," one man yelled, believing the gunfire to be from Brotherhood members.
“If we knew they were coming we would have been here and dealt with them," said Hassan Mohammed, who lives nearby. “The Brotherhood thinks that people are too busy to protect their neighborhoods, but we are not."
“Where are the police and military to help?" a man asked, rhetorically.
“They are busy with other things,” Mohammed said.