As Muslim Brotherhood sit-in protests cleared, casualty figure uncertain
The authorities move in at dawn in the areas of El-Nahda Square and Rabaa al-Adawiya. The Muslim Brotherhood claim hundreds of deaths and wounded, but there is no confirmation. At least one policeman was killed in the clashes. Islamists respond to the police charge with firearms and stones. A spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church says the country is "tired of this situation."

Cairo (AsiaNews) - Clashes between police and the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo this morning left scores of injured as the former tried to clear by force camps occupied by supporters of former President Mohamed Morsi. The Muslim Brotherhood has accused police of shooting and killing 120 protesters, but casualty figures remain uncertain. According to some sources, the latter have been deliberately inflated.

This morning, shortly after dawn, Egyptian police attacked the two main Islamist camps in the capital: El-Nahda Square and Rabaa al-Adawiya.

According to state television, two policemen were also killed in the clashes. Similar protests are underway in Alexandria and el-Fayum.

According to Fr Rafic Greiche, a spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church, police have already cleared the camp in Nahda Square, situated near the University of Cairo, where the operations were made easier by the absence of buildings.

The situation was more difficult in Rabaa al-Adawiya where clashes were more violent. "At least one policeman was killed," the priest said. "There are many wounded among the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood, but it is still too early to know the exact number."

The spokesman of the Catholic Church confirmed that police did not use live ammunition to disperse the demonstrators, but relied instead on tear gas and water cannons.

To defend themselves from the announced eviction, Islamists turned flowerbeds and gardens into blockhouses, building walls with sandbags and stones.

"They," the clergyman said, "responded to the police charge by throwing stones and firing live ammunition."

In Nahda Square, in addition to Islamist counteroffensive, police had to contain the wrath of residents, exasperated by months of demonstrations, against the Muslim Brotherhood.

Fr Greiche noted that most Egyptians oppose the return of the Muslim Brotherhood, who represent a political minority.

"Anyone who says that Egypt is evenly split is wrong," he explained. "Egypt is not divided into two equal parts. On the one hand, you have the Islamists who represent less than 5 per cent of the population; on the other, you have the people who took to the streets on 30 June, with various political movements, including rightwing Muslims who reject the Brotherhood's political agenda." (S.C.)

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