Egyptian supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood rally in support of deposed president Mohamed Mursi, July 6.
CAIRO (AFP) — Islamists massed for further protests on Saturday to demand the army restore Egypt’s first democratically elected leader, after 24 hours of ferocious violence that killed 37 people and injured more than 1,000 nationwide.
The atmosphere was tense as interim leader Adly Mansour held talks with ministers, aides and the Tamarod rebel group that engineered the mass demonstrations culminating in the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Mursi.
Crowds were swelling late afternoon outside Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, where Mursi supporters have been camped out for 10 days.
A nearby bridge was still littered with rocks and burned out tires from the overnight confrontations.
Anti-Mursi protesters meanwhile set up checkpoints in Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square after a night of deadly fighting nearby.
A coalition of Islamist groups early Saturday vowed “civilized protests and peaceful sit-ins in Cairo until the military coup is reversed and the legitimate president is restored”.
Despite the talk of peaceful demonstrations, residents of a Cairo district reported that bearded Islamists armed with machine guns, machetes and sticks clashed with them as they passed through their district during the night.
“The Brotherhood attacked the area with all kinds of weapons,” said Mohammed Yehya, who added he lost three of his friends in the mayhem. The claim could not be verified.
Fighting during the night between Mursi’s supporters and opponents elsewhere in the capital and in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, where pitched battles raged in the streets, killed at least 37 people and injured around 1,000, medics said.
The bloodletting continued on Saturday with gunmen killing a Coptic Christian priest by dragging him from his car and riddling him with bullets in the restive north of the Sinai peninsula, security sources said.
That came after armed Mursi supporters had stormed the provincial headquarters in the Sinai town of el-Arish and raised the black banner of Al-Qaeda-inspired militants on Friday night, an AFP correspondent said.
The fighting follows Wednesday’s toppling of Mursi, underlining the determination of the ousted leader’s Muslim Brotherhood to disrupt the military’s plan for a political transition until new elections.
The supreme guide of Mursi’s Brotherhood, Mohammed Badie, vowed on Friday that members of the Islamist movement would throng the streets in their “millions” until his presidency is restored.
Mursi’s first year of turbulent rule was marked by accusations that he failed the 2011 revolution by concentrating power in the Brotherhood’s hands and allowing the economy to take a nosedive.
The grassroots campaign Tamarod, Arabic for Rebellion, has urged its supporters to take to the streets again on Sunday, foreshadowing further confrontation in the streets.
Police meanwhile pressed a round-up of top Islamists, announcing the arrest of Khairat El-Shater, widely seen as the most powerful man behind Mursi in the Brotherhood.
The United States joined UN chief Ban Ki-moon in calling for a peaceful end to the crisis.
“We condemn the violence that has taken place today in Egypt. We call on all Egyptian leaders to condemn the use of force and to prevent further violence among their supporters,” said a State Department spokeswoman.
Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced Mursi’s overthrow on Wednesday night, citing his inability to end a deepening political crisis.
The Islamists accuse the military of conducting a brazen coup, after millions called for Mursi’s ouster on the June 30 anniversary of his maiden year in power.
The armed forces have already sworn in Mansour as interim president, and he issued his first decree on Friday, dissolving the Islamist-led parliament and appointing a new intelligence chief.
Mursi is being “preventively detained”, a senior military officer told AFP.
A judicial source said the prosecution would on Monday begin questioning Brotherhood members, including Mursi, for “insulting the judiciary”.
Coincidentally, ex-president Hosni Mubarak, toppled in a popular uprising that led to the poll in which Mursi was elected new leader, appeared in court in Cairo on Saturday when his retrial for alleged complicity in the killings of protesters in 2011 resumed.
The 85-year-old former strongman appeared in the dock behind bars on Saturday, wearing dark sunglasses and a white prison uniform.
During the televised hearing, Cairo’s criminal court heard submissions by the defense before adjourning proceedings until Aug. 17.