'This is not our country any more': Gun battles rage in Egypt as death toll continues to rise

Army helicopters hover over Cairo as forces continue bloody crackdown

Cairo

Cairo is convulsed by deadly gun battles this evening as the consequences of Wednesday’s mass killings reverberated around the country.

With army helicopters hovering high over the city centre and security services marshalling firepower to continue their bloody crackdown, Egypt looked in danger of sinking into greater violence.

Last night there was no confirmed death toll, but dozens of civilians were reported to have been killed. The violence spread across the country, with deaths reported in numerous provinces, including eight in Damietta, and four in Ismailia.

“The army and the police are killing their own people,” said Mohamed Mahmoud, an Islamist who had made his way to central Cairo for a rally. With bursts of machine-gun fire rattling around the central train station, he told The Independent that “this is not our country any more”.

The worst violence erupted in Ramses Square, the sprawling plaza in central Cairo which had been the focus of demonstrations called by supporters of toppled President Mohamed Morsi. But in a sign that the civil unrest which has gripped Egypt for much of the past two years may have reached a tipping point, other neighbourhoods were also caught up in the chaos.

Garden City, the leafy Nileside enclave dreamed up by British colonialists, was echoing to the sound of gunfire last night. Residents shuttered windows as security services carried out operations. Witnesses also reported hearing gunfire in Zamalek, the plush upper-class island which is home to a Hilton hotel.

Many Egyptians had woken up yesterday bracing themselves for the worst. Allies of Mr Morsi had called for dozens of demonstrations, with a week of daily rallies planned across Egypt. One Brotherhood leader warned that the level of anger was such that his organisation could no longer control its followers. The interior ministry, meanwhile, issued a statement that police had been authorised to use lethal force against protesters who threatened state buildings.

Even for a Friday morning – the Muslim day of rest – the streets were quiet. Soldiers in Tahrir Square, the crucible of a revolution, sat expectantly behind their gun turrets. At around 1pm, after several thousand Islamist protesters had reached Ramses Square, shots rang out from the direction of a police station in a road leading off the plaza. At times, the bursts of gunfire were intense. Palls of smoke from burning debris added to the confusion. A young boy, perhaps only 16, was raced to a field clinic with a chunk the size of an orange slice missing from his forehead.

“The government calls all these people terrorists,” shouted Mohamed al-Adawy, 30, gesturing to the thousands of protesters packed inside the square. “They are not terrorists. They are teachers, or engineers and come from all walks of life.”

At al-Tawheed Mosque, about half a mile east of Ramses Square, shawl-wrapped corpses were lined up one by one. Inside the prayer hall down below, doctors frantically performed CPR on dying patients. “The police don’t have any humanity,” said Dr Hassan Sulayman. “They have killed people like animals.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
News
i100
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of the late singer Whitney Houston, poses at the premiere of
people
News
people
News
The frequency with which we lie and our ability to get away with it both increase to young adulthood then decline with age, possibly because of changes that occur in the brain
scienceRoger Dobson knows the true story, from Pinocchio to Pollard
Voices
The male menopause: those affected can suffer hot flushes, night sweats, joint pain, low libido, depression and an increase in body fat, among other symptoms
voicesSo the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Life and Style
health
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen