News Column

Egypt Violence Kills 4; Worst Cairo Clash Since Mubarak

Dec. 6, 2012

At least four people were killed Thursday as thousands of backers and foes of Egypt's president clashed in the largest conflict since Hosni Mubarak's ouster.

Four senior advisers to President Mubarak's successor, Mohamed Morsi, including the chief of the constitutional committee, resigned during the clashes, blaming Morsi for the bloodshed.

Morsi did not immediately respond to the clashes.

Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil implored both sides in a statement to pull back to allow for "a national dialogue."

The fighting outside Morsi's Presidential Palace injured more than 350, the Health Ministry said, as Islamist supporters of Morsi, a former Muslim Brotherhood leader, fought secular Morsi opponents after the Islamists moved to break up an anti-Morsi demonstration late Wednesday night, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The anti-Morsi camp had complained the president had elevated himself to a dictatorial level when he seized sweeping powers to legislate without oversight of any court Nov. 22, removing the last check on his authority. He said he would give up the powers after ratification of the new Constitution. A vote is set for Dec. 15.

Demonstrators hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails and brawled in the streets of affluent Cairo neighborhoods, news organizations reported.

Around midnight, police formed a barrier between the battling camps, with thousands of demonstrators on each side. Gunshots rang out and each side accused the other of firing live rounds.

Police fired tear gas into the crowd divided by the cordon.

By 3:30 a.m. at least four people were killed, the Health Ministry said. A woman and a teenager are among the dead, the privately owned Egypt Independent reported.

As fires burned in the streets, clashed continued and hundreds of pro-Morsi protesters spread blankets on the pavement in front of the palace to hold their territory, the Journal said.

Members of the pro-Morsi crowd pummeled and dragged a man they characterized as an opposition thug, the newspaper said.

At least 32 people were arrested, the Interior Ministry said.

Each side blamed the other for starting the clashes.

Also in Cairo, crowds besieged the Brotherhood headquarters in the al-Moqatam neighborhood, Egypt's satellite ONTV reported.

Protests were also ignited in other cities, and Brotherhood offices were torched in Ismailia, 80 miles northeast of Cairo on the Suez Canal, and Suez, 90 miles east of Cairo on the Gulf of Suez.

The four Morsi advisers who resigned included Zaghloul El-Balshi, general secretary of the Supreme Committee on the Constitutional Referendum.

"I will not participate in a referendum that spilled Egyptian blood," Balshi said in a television interview during the violence. "I call on Morsi to cancel the constitutional declaration immediately."

The other advisers who resigned are Seif Abdel Fattah, Ayman Sayyad and Amr Leithy, Russia Today reported.

The clashes followed two weeks of sporadic violence around the country since Morsi issued his Nov. 22 decree that gave him immunity from judicial oversight.

Morsi has said he needs the expanded powers to block a conspiracy by corrupt businessmen, Mubarak-appointed judges and opposition leaders to thwart Egypt's transition to a constitutional democracy.

Secular critics accused Morsi and the Islamists of seeking to establish a new dictatorship, in part by ramming through a rushed Constitution they charge could give new power over society to Muslim scholars and Islamists groups.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton exhorted both sides to respect each other and refrain from bloodshed.

Speaking in Brussels, she called for a two-way dialogue and expressed dismay at the constitutional process.

Egyptians "deserve a constitutional process that is open, transparent and fair and does not unduly favor one group over any other," she said.



Source: Copyright United Press International 2012


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