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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'