After a “Day of Rage” on Friday that left at least 100 dead across Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood has doubled down and is now calling for daily protests against the military government.
More than 700 protestors have been killed by police in the past 3 days while at least 63 members of the security forces have died in the violence.
“Our rejection of the coup regime has become an Islamic, national and ethical obligation that we can never abandon,” said the Brotherhood, which has accused Egypt’s military of plotting the downfall of Mursi last month to regain the levers of power.
Many Western allies have denounced the killings, including the United States, but Saudi Arabia threw its weight behind the army-backed government on Friday, accusing its old foe the Muslim Brotherhood of trying to destabilize Egypt.
Violence erupted across Egypt after the Brotherhood, which has deep roots in the provinces, called for a “Day of Rage”. Roughly 50 people died in Cairo and more than 20 in the country’s second city, Alexandria, security sources said.
Automatic gunfire echoed around the capital throughout Friday afternoon, army helicopters swooped over the roof tops and at least one office block was set ablaze, lighting up the night sky long after the violence had subsided.
The Brotherhood announced a series of daily rallies over the next six days, starting on Saturday.
“We will not leave the squares. And we will not be silent over our rights, ever,” said Cairo resident Abdullah Abdul Fattah, adding that he was not a Brotherhood voter.
“We are here because of our brothers who died,” he said.
An interim cabinet, installed by the army after it removed Mursi during rallies against his often chaotic rule, has refused to back down. It has authorized police to use live ammunition to defend themselves and state installations.
There is apparently no backing down by either side, which almost certainly means that the body count will continue to grow.
Residents of Cairo have begun taking security into their own hands, forming neighborhood groups who have set up checkpoints to keep out pro-Morsi thugs who have been rampaging through the streets attacking police and civilians alike.
And while the Brotherhood continues to use women and children as human shields, at least some of the protestors are armed and have been firing at police:
The government said in a statement it was confronting the “Muslim Brotherhood’s terrorist plan”.
Undermining Brotherhood pledges of peaceful resistance, armed men were seen firing from the ranks of pro-Mursi supporters in Cairo on Friday. A security official said at least 24 policemen had died over the past 24 hours, and 15 police stations attacked.
The Brotherhood suggested the gunmen had been planted by the security forces, saying it remained committed to non-violence.
Witnesses also said Mursi backers had ransacked a Catholic church and set fire to an Anglican church in the city of Malawi. The Brotherhood, which has been accused of inciting anti-Christian sentiment, denies targeting churches.
Christians make up roughly 10 percent of Egypt’s 84-million population and the Coptic Church authority issued a statement on Friday saying it “strongly supports the Egyptian police and armed forces”.
Dozens of Christian churches have been burned to the ground in an orgy of anti-Christian violence conducted by Islamists, who appear to be taking advantage of the unrest to enforce their notion of Sharia law on Christians.
In a good PR move, the defense minister and chief of the army, General El-Sisi, has ordered the rebuilding of at least some of the Coptic churches destroyed by the Islamists:
Defense minister Col. Gen. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi intends to fix the damage to Coptic churches at Rabaa Adaweya and Nahda squares, according to a report by the Mid-East Christian News.
Dozens of churches were attacked and burned in riots after thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities to demand the end of what they call military rule, following the removal of Morsi on July 3. Many of Morsi’s supporters have voiced criticism at Egypt’s Christian minority for largely supporting the military’s decision to oust him from office.
“The Egyptian defense minister ordered the engineering department of the armed forces to swiftly repair all the affected churches, in recognition of the historical and national role played by our Coptic brothers,” read a statement that aired on Egyptian television.
Bishop Mousa thanked Sisi for his efforts to repair the damaged churches.
“We thank Col. Gen. Sisi for commissioning the brave Egyptian armed forces to rebuild the places of worship damaged during the recent events,” Bishop Mousa said on Twitter.
I don’t see any other way out of this crisis than for the government to once again ban the Muslim Brotherhood, put its leaders in jail — or worse — and prevent all religious parties from participating in elections. This would take Egypt back to the days of Mubarak, making Egypt the first “Arab Spring” country to come full circle to end up back to where they started.
It would also mark the virtual end of American influence in Egypt as our support for the Brotherhood is revealed as a spectacular miscalculation.