Egyptian military halts Cairo clashes after seven are killed

 

Egypt's Republican Guard restored order around the presidential palace after fierce overnight clashes killed seven people, but passions ran high in a struggle over the country's future.

The Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, criticised by his opponents for his silence in the last few days, was due to address the nation later in the day, state television said.

Hundreds of his supporters who had camped out near the palace overnight withdrew before a mid-afternoon deadline set by the Republican Guard. Dozens of Morsi's foes remained, but were kept away by a barbed wire barricade guarded by tanks.

The military played a big role in removing President Hosni Mubarak during last year's popular revolt, taking over to manage a transitional period, but had stayed out of the latest crisis.

Morsi's Islamist partisans fought opposition protesters well into the early hours during duelling demonstrations over the president's decree on 22 November to expand his powers to help him push through a mostly Islamist-drafted constitution.

Officials said seven people had been killed and 350 wounded in the violence, for which each side blamed the other. Six of the dead were Morsi supporters, the Muslim Brotherhood said.

The street clashes reflected a deep political divide in the most populous Arab nation, where contrasting visions of Islamists and their liberal rivals have complicated a struggle to embed democracy after Mubarak's 30-year autocracy.

The United States, worried about the stability of an Arab partner which has a peace deal with Israel and which receives $1.3 billion a year in US military aid, has urged dialogue.

The commander of the Republican Guard said deployment of tanks and troop carriers around the presidential palace was intended to separate the adversaries, not to repress them.

"The armed forces, and at the forefront of them the Republican Guard, will not be used as a tool to oppress the demonstrators," General Mohamed Zaki told the state news agency.

Hussein Abdel Ghani, spokesman of the opposition National Salvation Front, said more protests were planned, but not necessarily at the palace in Cairo's Heliopolis district.

"Our youth are leading us today and we decided to agree to whatever they want to do," he told Reuters.

Egypt plunged into renewed turmoil after Morsi issued his 22 November decree and an Islamist-dominated assembly hastily approved a new constitution to go to a referendum on 15 December.

The Supreme Guide of the Brotherhood, to which Morsi belonged before he was narrowly elected president in June, appealed for unity. Divisions among Egyptians "only serve the nation's enemies", Mohamed Badie said in a statement.

Rival factions used rocks, petrol bombs and guns in the clashes around the presidential palace.

"We came here to support President Mursi and his decisions. He is the elected president of Egypt," said demonstrator Emad Abou Salem, 40. "He has legitimacy and nobody else does."

Opposition protester Ehab Nasser el-Din, 21, his head bandaged after being hit by a rock the day before, decried the Muslim Brotherhood's "grip on the country", which he said would only tighten if the new constitution is passed.

Another protester, Ahmed Abdel-Hakim, 23, accused the Brotherhood of "igniting the country in the name of religion".

Morsi's opponents accuse him of seeking to create a new "dictatorship". The president says his actions were necessary to prevent courts still full of judges appointed by Mubarak from derailing a constitution vital for Egypt's political transition.

Mursi has shown no sign of buckling under pressure from protesters, confident that the Islamists, who have dominated both elections since Mubarak was overthrown, can win the referendum and the parliamentary election to follow.

Mahmoud Hussein, the Brotherhood's secretary-general, said holding the plebiscite was the only way out of the crisis, dismissing the opposition as "remnants of the (Mubarak) regime, thugs and people working for foreign agendas".

As well as relying on his Brotherhood power base, Morsi may also tap into a popular yearning for stability and economic revival after almost two years of political turmoil.

The Egyptian pound sank today to its lowest level in eight years, after previously firming on hopes that a $4.8 billion IMF loan would stabilise the economy. The Egyptian stock market fell 4.4 per cent after it opened.

Foreign exchange reserves fell by nearly $450 million to $15 billion in November, indicating that the Central Bank was still spending heavily to bolster the pound. The reserves stood at about $36 billion before the anti-Mubarak uprising.

Reuters

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Frank Turner performing at 93 Feet East
musicReview: 93 Feet East, London
News
Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
news

World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

Extras
indybest
Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
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: Digital Content Manager

£26000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Content Manager is re...

Recruitment Genius: Senior .Net Application Developer

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £17500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful applicant will b...

Recruitment Genius: Continuous Improvement Manager

£41500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee