A backlash against the Egyptian state’s war on Islamists took hold today as a government building was torched in Cairo and protesters vowed to continue their defiant stance against the interim government.
While Egyptians came to terms with the worst single mass killing in the country’s modern history, outraged supporters of toppled President Mohamed Morsi set the governorate headquarters ablaze in Giza, a section of west Cairo.
Huge plumes of smoke rose above the capital before fire engines arrived to extinguish the flames.
In the east of the capital, the aftermath of Wednesday’s massacre was playing out in the El-Amin Mosque, about two miles away from the scene of the mass killings.
At least 242 bodies had been lined up in long rows on the carpet inside the prayer hall. Some were little more than charred skeletons after being caught in the fires which swept through the makeshift morgues during the crackdown.
Young boys sprayed the corpses with cans of air freshener to try to hide the stench. Widows and bereaved family members knelt next to the bodies and wept.
“They have killed the revolution,” said Mahmoud Sayed, who had arrived at the mosque to find the body of his friend Emad. “If all these people had weapons like they said, then why didn’t they fight back?”
The official death toll, announced by the Egyptian health ministry, now stands at 578 people. Thousands more were wounded during the violence, which also gripped cities and provinces in other parts of the country.
The Muslim Brotherhood said more than 2,000 protesters were killed in Cairo. Meanwhile a senior doctor at Wednesday’s massacre told The Independent he believed the figure was about 1,500. It was not possible to reconcile the death tolls.
State television last night quoted the Interior Ministry as saying security forces would use live ammunition against any individuals who threatened state buildings.
The Muslim Brotherhood has called on its followers to remain on the streets. But senior Brotherhood figure Gehad al-Haddad told Reuters that the level of anger among supporters was “beyond control”.
“After the blows and arrests and killings that we are facing, emotions are too high to be guided by anyone,” he said.
“It's not about Morsi any more,” he added. “Are we going to accept a new military tyranny in Egypt or not?”