AIRO - Dozens were killed in violent clashes between security forces and supporters of former president Mohamed Morsi on Saturday morning in one of the deadliest spells of unrest since the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak.
The Egyptian Health Ministry said at least 65 people were killed Saturday morning's violence. More than 200 were wounded in Cairo on Saturday, the Health Ministry added.
The violence began overnight when supporters of Morsi tried to extend a sit-in to a major road and police fired tear gas, according to reports. Morsi supporters have held a sit-in for more than three weeks outside Rabaa Al Adawiya Mosque in Nasr City.
The conflict turned deadly, and bodies covered in bloody white cloths lined the floor of a makeshift hospital Saturday morning. Many suffered birdshot and gunshot wounds in the head and upper body, according to reports.
Differing narratives emerged over who was to blame for the escalation.
In a televised news conference Saturday afternoon, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim denied that police used live ammunition and accused the Brotherhood of exaggerating the number of people killed. He said security forces plan to deal with remaining protesters "soon" without offering a precise timeline.
At least one video, however, that appeared to be taken Saturday morning showed security forces firing on demonstrators. It also showed young men throwing rocks, presumably in the direction of security forces. Citing an anonymous source, state news agency MENA reported that eight security force members were wounded.
The Brotherhood said their sit-in was attacked by police, snipers and thugs and called the event a massacre.
Waiel Yahya, a member of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party who was at the scene of the clashes, said that the field hospital in Nasr City had to stop receiving patients who came in with wounds, some of which were critical.
"Now the hospital cannot hold anyone because there is no medicine and not enough doctors, not enough supplies," said Yahya, who heads the media center at Rabaa Al Adawiya. "Anyone who comes is now directed to a hospitals nearby ... There is no place to put the injured."
Yahya said protesters in Nasr City will continue the sit-in, noting that security forces "stopped firing" by late Saturday morning.
Gehad El Haddad, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, called Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi "a war criminal."
The army chief unseated Morsi, the nation's first freely elected leader, earlier this month and ushered in a transition plan for fresh parliamentary and presidential elections.
Morsi has been held by authorities since then and on Saturday, Ibrahim said he may be transferred to the same prison where Mubarak is being held. Morsi has been accused of a slew of crimes, including conspiring with the Palestinian group Hamas to commit violence in Egypt.
Almost three weeks ago, more than 50 people were killed when security forces opened fire on pro-Morsi demonstrators outside a Republican Guard facility, where many believed Morsi was being held.
Saturday's renewed violence followed a day of protests by opposing political camps. Al-Sisi had called for Egyptians to take to the streets to give him and security forces a mandate to "confront possible violence and terrorism."
Egyptians supporting the military heeded the call. They converged on Tahrir Square and outside the presidential palace Friday afternoon, cheering in support of the military and holding pictures of Al-Sisi.
"No to terrorism," said Amin Ahmed, 43, standing in Tahrir Square, where a festive rally continued Saturday morning. "We are here for Egypt."
Nearby, pro-Morsi demonstrators seethed with anger. Many marched toward Rabaa Al Adawiya Mosque to insist that Morsi is the nation's legal president and demand his reinstatement.
"We came here to defend our votes in elections," said Hamed Al Mekabty, 31, from the Egyptian city Mansoura. "We are all against the military coup and came to say to Sisi: 'Go away, we don't want you.' "
At least eight people were killed in clashes that erupted Friday between Morsi supporters and opponents in Alexandria, the state news agency said. Over the past several weeks, dozens more have been killed in clashes, and attacks on security outposts have spiked in the Sinai Peninsula.
As the nation remains divided and inflamed, Saturday's violence further complicates the situation.
"The more casualties we witness every day, the more difficult it will be to achieve reconciliation between the two camps," said political analyst Mazen Hassan in Cairo. "And it will only make it more difficult for a dialogue to take place between all factions."
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