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

Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
Russell Brand has written a book of political analysis called Revolution
peopleFilm star says he is 'not interested in making money anymore'
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites those Star Wars rumours
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Chastain during an interview in Los Angeles.
filmsOscar hopeful Jessica Chastain reveals the secret to her breakthrough success
News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

News
news
Life and Style
Meow! ... Again, Kim Kardashian goes for a sexy Halloween costume, wrapping her body with a latex catsuit and high heeled knee boots
fashionFrom Heidi Klum to Kim Kardashian
News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch
tv

Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge
booksChristmas comes early for wizard fans
Arts and Entertainment
filmsOculus Rift offers breathtakingly realistic simulation of zero gravity
Sport
footballAccording to revelations from Sergio Aguero's new biography
Life and Style
tech

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

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker