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
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions