CAIRO -- Fears of a new wave of deadly violence have shaken Cairo as Islamist supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi have clashed with security forces on bridges and in squares, leaving the capital streaked in tear gas and echoing with gunfire.
Seven people were killed and more than 260 injured late Monday and into Tuesday when Morsi loyalists battled police on streets scattered with stones and pitched fires. The fighting followed an army attack on Islamists in front of the Republican Guard headquarters last week that killed at least 51 supporters of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood party.
The capital was largely calm by daybreak Tuesday. But the clashes illustrated the country’s deepening political rancor and the desperation Islamists feel that Morsi, the nation’s first freely elected president, may never return to power. The new military-installed interim government is moving ahead on a “road map” to new elections and an amended constitution.
“National reconciliation is necessary,” tweeted Khalil Anani, an expert on Islamist movements. “Egypt’s divide turns brother against brother.”
Since the coup that toppled Morsi nearly two weeks ago, authorities have moved to weaken the Brotherhood, issuing arrest warrants for and freezing the assets of its leaders. Prosecutors have announced a criminal investigation against Morsi, who is in military detention, on allegations ranging from ruining the economy to spying.
Tens of thousands of Morsi backers protest nightly in front of the Rabaa Al Adawiya mosque, which has taken on the aura of a sprawling camp that includes a field hospital, stage, media center, barbers and boys selling oranges amid tents crammed with men who pray and seethe over the Brotherhood’s drastic shift in fortunes.
But the camp no longer appears to contain the rage. Young Islamists have marched toward the center of the city, edging closer to government buildings and Tahrir Square, the epicenter for the largely secular opposition that supported the coup and demonized Morsi as an Islamist who sought to drag Egypt back to the dark ages.
The Brotherhood told Gen. Abdel Fattah Sisi, commander of the armed forces, that Morsi “is the popularly elected president as you are devoid of right, a usurper of power and an overthrower of the people’s will.”
“Revert from your coup, and return to God; maybe he will forgive you,” the group said in a statement.
The opposition youth movement known as Rebel, which organized mass protests against Morsi, said its members would not be deterred by bloodshed and Brotherhood threats: “Violence will not scare the Egyptian citizens,” it said in a statement. The group told Brotherhood supporters, “Your leaders are corrupt. Leave them and return to the side of the Egyptian people.”
Special correspondent Ingy Hassieb contributed to this report.