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Clashes by Egypt army, protesters kill at least 54


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Reeling from scenes of bloodied protesters in hospitals and clinics, many with gaping wounds, some of the country’s politicians tried to push new plans for some sort of reconciliation in the deeply polarized nation.

Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, the most prominent Sunni Muslim institution, demanded that a reconciliation panel with full powers immediately start work and that those detained in recent days be released. Five prominent Brotherhood figures have been jailed since Morsi’s fall, and Morsi himself is held in detention in an unknown location.

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El-Tayeb’s announcement he was going into seclusion was a symbolic but dramatic stance — a figure seen as a moral compass by many Egyptians expressing his disgust with all sides in the events. Egypt’s Coptic popes have at times gone into seclusion to protest acts against the Christian community, but the sheik of Al-Azhar has never done so.

Struggling whether to fully bolt from the new leadership, the ultraconservative Al-Nour Party denounced what it called incitement against fellow Islamists. Speaking to Al-Jazeera TV, the party’s chief Younes Makhyoun raised the possibility of calling a referendum on Morsi as a compromise measure.

There were multiple calls for an independent investigation into the bloodshed as a way to establish the truth and move forward.

The military-backed interim president, Adly Mansour, ordered a judicial inquiry into the killings. Significantly, the statement from his office echoed the military’s version of events, saying the killings followed an attempt to storm the Republican Guard’s headquarters.

The escalating chaos could further complicate Egypt’s relations with Washington and other Western allies, which had supported Morsi as the country’s first freely elected leader and now are reassessing policies toward the military-backed group that forced him out.

Still, the White House said Monday that cutting off the more than $1 billion in annual aid to Egypt was not in the U.S.’s best interests, though it was reviewing whether the military’s moves constitute a coup — which would force such a measure under U.S. law.

But Egypt’s new leadership appeared to be pushing ahead with the "road map" the military set up for the post-Morsi political system. Along with the timetable for elections, negotiations have been ongoing over appointing a prime minister, who will hold the main powers in governing the country. Talks have been stalled by Al-Nour Party vetos of candidates from liberal and secular factions — but if the party drops out, those factions may push through a candidate.

At the same time, the military was pushing hard to isolate Islamists from public support, depicting their protests as rife with gunmen and weapons.


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Ali said the sit-in outside the Guard headquarters had "abandoned peacefulness." Ali also pointed to other incidents of Islamist violence after Morsi’s toppling on Wednesday, including coordinated, deadly attacks by extremists on military installations in the Sinai Peninsula.

Prosecutors in Cairo also ordered the closure of the Brotherhood party’s headquarters amid investigations into a cache of weapons found there, according to the official Middle East News Agency.

During the wave of protests last week that led to Morsi’s removal, Brotherhood supporters used guns in several instances to defend their offices when opponents marched on them — or outright attacked them.

Islamists, meanwhile, depicted the military as willing to wipe them out by force of arms.

Outside hospitals and clinics near Monday’s violence, Morsi supporters waved the bloodied shirts of the dead or wounded.

"The only thing the military understands is force and they are trying to force people into submission," said Marwan Mosaad, speaking at a field hospital run by Morsi’s supporters. "It is a struggle of wills and no one can predict anything."

Abu Ubaida Mahmoud, a religion student from Al-Azhar University, said he had been praying when the sit-in’s security teams began banging on metal barricades in warning. He then saw troops coming out of the Guard complex.

"The number of troops that came from inside was stunning," said Mahmoud, who was wounded in the hand.

It was "as if they were firing at an enemy," said another protester, Ahmed Youssef.

A fire raged from an apartment in a building overlooking the clashes. Images showed men throwing spears from atop nearby building rooftops. Other protesters were lobbing fire bombs at the troops. It was not clear at what stage in the melee the footage was filmed. Security officers were showing cameras bullet casings, and troops were carrying injured colleagues.

By the afternoon, the sit-in site was cleared along with blockades that had been set up on roads. The site of the early morning clashes, a strip of road about a kilometer long (about half a mile), was covered with rocks, shattered glass, shoes, clothes, prayer rugs and personal photographs.

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