17 Dead in Egypt on 'Day of Rage'

10:19 AM, Aug 16, 2013   |    comments
  • Egyptian military armored vehicles stand guard at a checkpoint on the edge of Tahrir Square by the Egyptian Museum on August 16, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt. The Egyptian Military has closed off the city's iconic Tahrir Square today to pedestrian traffic in response to calls for mass protests in downtown Cairo by supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi after midday prayer. mps. (Photo by Ed Giles/Getty Images)
  • Supporters of unseated Egypt's Islamist president Mohamed Morsi demonstrate outside the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara on August 16, 2013. Around 3,000 protesters performed a funeral prayer in absentia for the dead in Egypt at an Ankara mosque before marching to the US and Egyptian embassies in the Turkish capital. (Photo credit: Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images)
    
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Sarah Lynch, Special for USA TODAY

CAIRO -Clashes between security forces and protesters killed another 17 people Friday as tens of thousands of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood took to streets in defiance of a military-imposed state of emergency.

More than 650 people have now been killed in clashes this week.

Protesters poured out of mosques after traditional mid-day prayers in response to the Muslim Brotherhood's call for a "Friday of Anger" against the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi and the deadly violence during a police operation to evict Morsi supporters from protest camps.

Scenes of chaos tore through the capital Friday as sounds of gunfire crackled through the air. Two motorbikes whipped through the capital's center, carrying two wounded people shot in a throng of protesters.

Protesters said shooting was coming from nearby buildings but that was unclear.

"We don't have weapons. We don't have Kalashnikovs," said Jamal Salam, wearing a robe and with a long grey beard as a helicopter buzzed overhead in the hot afternoon. "And they are shooting us."

Protesters vowed to keep up their demonstrations against Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi who led the July 3 overthrow of former president Morsi.

Armored military vehicles sealed off main squares in the Egyptian capital and troops with machine guns stood at the ready on key junctions. Mohammed Attiya, a pro-Morsi protester speaking via phone from Tanta, a city north of Cairo, said security forces were firing tear gas at demonstrators there as well.

"We can't breathe. We can't see," he said.

At least 638 were killed nationwide Wednesday including 43 police, the Health Ministry said. Most died in violence at two main protest sites positioned on opposite sides of the capital. With bulldozers, tear gas and live ammunition, security forces tore through the sit-ins, where protesters gathered for six weeks denouncing the military coup and demanding Morsi's reinstatement.

The government defended its position, saying it gave protesters a chance to leave and was "keen to adopt a gradual plan to avoid bloodshed and falling of victims."

Morsi was ousted after millions of Egyptians took to the streets to protest what they called dictatorial policies that overrode their recent democracy following the 2011 ouster of longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak by the military. An interim government was appointed by the military to create a plan for new elections.

But the Brotherhood refuses to participate, demanding the return of Morsi, who is being held under house arrest.

"All ways to peacefully end the two sit-ins were in vain," a State Information Service statement said, adding that suggested initiatives to do so were welcomed but rejected by leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Friday, Khaled Dawoud resigned from his position as spokesperson of the National Salvation Front, a coalition of leftist and liberal groups formerly led by Mohamed ElBaradei, who was appointed interim vice president for foreign affairs in July.

Dawoud cited the National Salvation Front's refusal to condemn Wednesday's "massacre" as the reason for his resignation, as well as the "vicious attacks" against ElBaradei after the vice president resigned from his government post two days ago.

"I think the bloody breakup of the Rabaa and Nahda sit-ins should have been condemned and there should have been a clear indication that this is not what we're aiming for," he said.

"I don't want to be involved in any party or front that finds the acts of police justified," he said.

On Thursday, demonstrators attacked and torched a government building in Giza not far from the second protest site, which was completely cleared and the roads open to traffic.

Pro-Morsi Egyptians attacked churches of Coptic Christians, apparently blaming the Christians for the ouster or Morsi. Christians make up about 10% of Egypt's 83 million people. The protesters also attacked numerous police stations after the sit-ins were cleared out, the Interior ministry had said. Forty-three police officers were killed, it said.

The State Department urged U.S. citizens living in Egypt to depart and warned Americans to defer travel to the country "because of the continuing political and social unrest." Last month, the State Department ordered non-emergency government personnel and their families to leave Egypt.

President Obama's cancelld joint military exercise with Egypt and calling on all sides to solve their differences without violence.

"While we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back," Obama said Thursday, speaking from his weeklong vacation in Martha's Vineyard.

A Working Group on Egypt - comprised of eleven policy advisers, co-chairs, executives, directors and senior fellows at Freedom House, the Council on Foreign Relations and nine other institutes - called on the Obama administration to take further steps, including immediate suspension of military aid that totals $1.3 billion annually.

Washington has refused to call the military takeover in Egypt a coup, which would require the U.S. to halt funding.

"The killing of hundreds of protesters carried out by the Egyptian military government was unnecessary, unjustified, and in contravention of international human rights standards," the Working Group on Egypt said in a statement. "These events demand a shift in U.S. policy that is urgent and long overdue."


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