Cairo massacre eyewitness report: At least 51 dead and more than 440 injured as army hits back at Muslim Brotherhood supporters

Massacre at Cairo’s Presidential Guard headquarters left at least 51 dead and more than 440 injured

Cairo

The bodies lay on the grey floor smeared with streaks of blood. Three were covered with a purple and green blanket; two more lay under an Egyptian flag. Alongside the dead, a steady stream of victims was carried in to the hospital near the Rabaa Adiwiya mosque. Many of them looked unlikely to survive, such was the severity of their injuries.

The massacre at Cairo’s Presidential Guard headquarters had left at least 51 dead and more than 440 injured, another brutal step in this country’s seemingly inexorable slide into chaos. The Muslim Brotherhood, whose supporters had been shot down, called for an uprising against the military-led alliance that had deposed its man, Mohamed Morsi, from the presidency.  At the same time the Islamist movement warned that Egypt would become “the new Syria” unless action was taken “to stop attacks on the people”.

Demonstrators claimed that the dead included five children, one of whom was just six months old. This was not verified by the authorities, but families have been present at the protest camps and were still there among the crowd after the shooting yesterday.

The deaths sparked an immediate political reaction. The conservative religious party al-Nour, which had backed the Egyptian military’s action against Mr Morsi, announced that it would no longer take part in talks to appoint an interim prime minister. The Grand Mufti of al-Azhar University, the most senior authority in Sunni Islam and a man who endorsed the army’s “road-map” for Egypt’s future, warned of civil war and declared he was going into seclusion until the bloodshed ended. 

Pro- and anti-Morsi factions accused each other of starting the killing spree. Yet there is evidence that some of the dead and wounded were hit while they were saying their dawn prayers, kneeling with their backs to the direction from which the shots had come.

Videos emerged last night of a man who looked like a soldier firing on protesters from a nearby building.

They had camped overnight outside the headquarters of the Presidential Guard, where they believe Mr Morsi is being held, vowing to free him. The army claimed that it had shot back in self-defence after coming under fire from a group of “terrorists”.  A spokesman, “wisdom and patience”. “We are heading towards a truly democratic civil state,” he added.

Supporters of Mr Morsi have called for mass protests in opposition to the killings to take place across the country today. Meanwhile state television showed footage of an Islamist crowd throwing rocks at troops. The film showed young men emerging from behind a wall to launch petrol bombs, while images were also shown of a group of men using home-made handguns. It was, however, unclear where and when the filming had taken place.

The Muslim Brotherhood insisted that the shooting was unprovoked and that its supporters had behaved peacefully. However, Brotherhood followers were involved in clashes with the security forces and opponents last Friday, in which four people died.

Twenty people interviewed at the scene of the shooting denied that the demonstrators had used firearms. While two admitted throwing rocks, their accounts, given separately, present a picture of a period of relative calm suddenly shattered. Around 4am tear-gas canisters began to land around them, followed by shotgun rounds and then bullets.

Adli Mansour, the interim President, expressed “deep regret” and promised a judicial inquiry into the deaths. Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency who had backed the removal of Mr Morsi and is expected to take over as prime minister, also called for an investigation.

Even if the military had faced shots and petrol bombs, an objective inquiry will need to look at whether the scale and ferocity of the response was justified. “That is the least they can do,” said 30-year-old Amir el-Gabar, who was shot in the back of the shoulder. “Look, I am a doctor, not a terrorist. I have never fired a gun in my life and this is what happened to me.

“I am not going to say that there wasn’t trouble in another part of the protest because I do not know. But there was no trouble where we were. We were saying our first prayers when the firing began and I fell face forward. I tried to help others afterwards, but I could not really move this arm.”

Saleh Akef, 22, who was at the demonstration with his 18-year-old brother Abdulaziz, recalled the imam leading the prayers “stuttering in shock” when tear gas started spreading. “We couldn’t see, we were choking – I tried to find my brother and I saw a soldier with one knee on the ground aiming at me. He fired and I was hit.” The bullet went through his right elbow.

“I know children were hurt, I saw one little boy myself; his father was carrying him away. I don’t know why they did this, but it was deliberate. At the end they moved the barbed-wire to come closer to shoot. We were throwing stones at them, but only to try and keep them away.” Hazem Mamdouh acknowledged that stones were thrown after the initial round of tear gas, but vehemently denied that protesters were using weapons. “The media are saying we are terrorists. They say we fired on them, while we were praying with our backs to them.

“After the shooting started we got pushed up Tairan Street, all the men, women and children. Every five minutes it seemed like somebody was getting killed. I have never seen anything like this, even during the first revolution in 2011. Even Hosni Mubarak’s troops would not have done this.”

But sympathy for the Islamists was in short supply among their opponents. Samir Abbas, who has been among thousands of anti-Morsi demonstrators  gathered in Tahrir Square in recent days, said: “The Muslim Brotherhood were in power until last week and they had no hesitation in using the police to attack protests against them. Brotherhood thugs would target and beat up opponents all the time. I do not believe for one minute that they did nothing and the army just opened fire. We know how devious they are.”

The current polarisation within Egyptian society was also reflected at a press conference given by the security forces during which local journalists successfully demanded the exclusion of the correspondent from Al Jazeera . The Qatar-based TV company is said to have close links with the Muslim Brotherhood. Some of the journalists later applauded the police and army spokesmen.

The military offered the remaining demonstrators the chance to withdraw from Rabaa Adawiya and stated that no one who had abided by the law would be hunted down. The protest campsite where the shooting had taken place is now under the control of the security forces.

Video: Amateur footage of shooting at Friday prayer

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Neil Young performs on stage at Hyde Park
musicAnd his Hyde Park set has rhyme and reason, writes Nick Hasted
News
Women have been desperate to possess dimples like Cheryl Cole's
people Cole has secretly married French boyfriend Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini after just three months.
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Extras
indybestThe tastiest creations for children’s parties this summer
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Paolo Nutini performs at T in the Park
music
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Web / Digital Analyst - SiteCatalyst or Google Analytics

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Campaign Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency is currently ...

Software Engineer - C++

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Software En...

Software Team Leader - C++

£40000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Software Tea...

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor