An already dangerous, volatile situation turned even deadlier early Monday in Cairo when dozens of people were killed at a protest outside the Republican Guard facility where it’s believed ousted President Mohammed Morsi is being held.
Most of those who died are reported to have been among a large group of Morsi’s supporters.
There are conflicting reports about exactly what happened. The Associated Press writes that:
“Military spokesmen said gunmen opened fire on troops at the building. … A spokesman from Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, Mourad Ali, and a witness at the scene, however, said military forces opened fire at dawn on the protesters outside the Republican Guard building.”
The pro-Morsi gathering is being described by the AP and others as a sit-in.
The BBC writes that:
“Eyewitness accounts … have inflamed the already simmering tensions. For Egyptians, it is shocking news no matter who started the gunfight.
“The deadly incident is not the first. On Friday, three protesters were killed at the same spot in unclear circumstances but against a backdrop of a stand-off between the army and the pro-Morsi protesters.”
Reuters adds that “as an immediate consequence, the ultra-conservative Islamist Nour party, which initially supported the military intervention, said it was withdrawing from stalled negotiations to form an interim government for the transition to fresh elections.”
From Cairo, NPR producer Greg Dixon tells us that Health Ministry officials estimate there were at least 42 people killed. Several hundred more people are said to have been wounded.
On Morning Edition, NPR’s Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reported from Cairo that it’s feared there will be more violence later on Monday when Morsi’s supporters are expected to gather for prayers and possibly some funeral processions for those who were killed earlier in the day.
Protests against the year-old Morsi government grew in late June. Many Egyptians are angry over the country’s deep economic problems and believe that Morsi and his Islamist Brotherhood party have not responded to the needs of most people.
Last Wednesday, Egypt’s military removed Morsi from office. An interim president, Adly Mansour, is now trying to form a temporary government. The military has promised there will be new elections. Morsi is Egypt’s first democratically elected leader.
Update at 10:15 a.m. ET. Death Toll May Top 50:
Reuters reports that “the death toll in violence at the Cairo headquarters of the Republican Guard on Monday rose to 51, the head of Egypt’s emergency services said. The number of wounded was 435, Mohamed Sultan said.”