At least 51 people had been killed and more than 435 injured in Cairo, the Egyptian capital on Monday, in a shooting spree between the country’s military and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood who were demanding the reinstatement of President Mohamed Morsi who was ousted five days ago.
Protesters said shooting started as they performed morning prayers outside the Cairo barracks where Mursi is believed to be held.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Gehad Haddad, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, said that at around 3.30 in the morning, army and police forces started firing at sit-in protesters in front of the Republican Guard headquarters in Cairo.
“We have people hit in the head, we have bullets that exploded as they entered the body, cluttering organs and body parts. Every police force in the world understands how to disperse a sit-in. This is just a criminal activity targeting protesters,” Haddad said.
The army’s version of what happened is however different. Military spokesman, Ahmed Ali, said that armed men attacked troops in the area around the Republican Guard compound in the northeast of the city around 4.00 am.
“The armed forces always deal with issues very wisely, but there is certainly also a limit to patience,” the uniformed Ali told a news conference.
He said a terrorist group tried to storm the Republican Guard compound and one army officer had been killed and 40 wounded
“Soldiers returned fire when they were attacked by armed assailants,” he added.
Speaking at the same press conference, Hany Abdel Latif, Egypt’s interior ministry spokesman, said that “the Egyptian police is the force of the people. They are operating for all the Egyptian people, with all their affiliations.”
“The Egyptian security forces are working to safeguard the freedom of the Egyptian people following the January 2011 revolution,” he said, adding that the police and security apparatus will not protect any particular regime, not “the former, the existing, or the upcoming”.
“The Egyptian police is out of the political equation. It cannot be part of any political process in any way, shape or form,” Abdel Latifsaid.
The Egyptian health ministry said Egypt’s interim administration has expressed “deep regret” for those killed in today’s violence and that the transitional administration has also formed a judicial committee to investigate the events.
Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood urged people to rise up against the army, which they accuse of a coup to topple the president. The movement’s leaders are calling for peaceful resistance.