CAIRO - As many as 95 people were reported killed and around 250 injured across Egypt on Friday in clashes between Islamist protesters and security forces.
The violence came as Islamists marched on the call of Muslim Brotherhood in several cities around Egypt in what they dubbed a "Friday of rage " to protest the killing of hundreds of loyalists of ousted president Mohamed Morsi during a security crackdown on Wednesday.
The bloodshed came despite tightening of security by the army in Cairo and other cities in response to the Brotherhood's calls for marches from 28 mosques following Friday prayers. Protests were held in Cairo, in the second city of Alexandria, in several Nile Delta provinces, in Suez Canal cities and central Egyptian provinces.
Different counts from across Egypt put the Friday’s death toll at 95. A news agency’s reporter counted at least 19 bodies in one Cairo mosque, while eyewitnesses at a second mosque said more than 20 bodies of protesters were laid out. One eyewitness said as many as 27 corpses were lined up inside the second mosque, in Cairo's Ramses Square.
The Muslim Brotherhood said 45 people had been killed in Cairo, accusing security forces of using live fire against peaceful protesters. They said over 250 people were injured in the clashes across the country. The health ministry said four people were killed in violence in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya and another eight in northern Damietta.
Security sources also reported a police conscript was killed when gunmen attacked a checkpoint in the capital. Among those killed elsewhere were a policeman in the North Sinai town of El-Arish, and one protester in the canal city of Port Said. The interior ministry said Thursday that it would take tough measures, including the use of live fire, if protesters attacked government buildings.
A protester, Said Mohammed, said that the crowds near Ramses Square were shot at by men in helicopters. "Helicopters started to shoot us as we were walking. My friend took a shot in the neck and he died," he said. "This was the first time we saw helicopters shooting. There were people shooting from the windows."
Another protester named Ahmed Tohami said there was "blood in the streets" as police fired tear gas and bullets at marchers. "Men, young ladies, old women… all are under attack. The kids are here on the bridge – we are under attack... there is no way down. They are attacking us from all sides. We have nowhere to go," he said live on Al Jazeera.
The call to end Friday’s demonstrations came shortly after a night-time curfew went into effect. But Anti-Coup Alliance spokesman Gehad El-Haddad told AFP that Morsi loyalists would hold "daily anti-coup rallies" going forward.
The crackdown also drew strong condemnation from the international community and the Iranian foreign minister on Friday phoned OIC secretary general, urging the organisation to intervene in Egypt to prevent further ‘massacre’ of ‘defenseless population’. In Jordan, Morocco, Palestinian territories, Sudan, Indonesia and Malaysia hundreds joined demonstrations in support of Morsi.
But Egypt's cabinet issued a defiant statement on Friday, saying it was confronting a "terrorist plot". Saudi Arabia and Jordan sided with military backed regime saying they backed Egypt's fight against "terrorism".
Turkey recalled its ambassador to Cairo and Egypt retaliated by recalling its envoy to Turkey and cancelling joint naval exercises. US President cancelled a joint US-Egyptian military exercise but stopped short of suspending $1.3b annual aid.
EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton called Friday for the bloc to adopt "appropriate measures" in response. Germany said it would review ties with Cairo, and joined France in calling for EU talks on the situation, likely on Monday.
Following an emergency meeting in New York on Thursday, UNSC president urged all parties to exercise "maximum restraint". UN chief also condemned the crackdown while UN rights chief urged a wide-ranging probe. The UN said Friday it would dispatch Jeffrey Feltman to Cairo next week.