08/17/2013, 00.00
EGYPT - ISLAM
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Cairo, hundreds of Islamists barricaded in mosque. More attacks on churches and Christian buildings

The Army is negotiating with the protesters to clear the building. Yesterday, more than 1,000 Islamists were arrested. Blood bank torched; protesters shot at firemen. Christian organizations draw up a list of churches attacked yesterday. Hamas and Iran defend Muslim Brotherhood.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - Hundreds of Islamists have barricaded themselves in the Ghamal Al-Fatah mosque since last night (see photo), after bloody clashes with the army following the "Day of Rath" launched by the Muslim Brotherhood to demand the return of ousted President Mohamed Morsi. Meanwhile, representatives of the Christian Churches are drawing up a list of new attacks on Christian buildings that took place yesterday at the hands of Morsi supporters.

The Al-Fatah mosque is located near Ramses Square, the meeting point of the Islamists for the demonstrations yesterday, who wanted to challenge the state of emergency and a curfew imposed by the army, after the bloodbath of three days ago in which over 600 people were killed.

The current situation is one of confusion. Some sources say that the soldiers entered the mosque to negotiate its evacuation with protesters. Many of them asked not to be arrested and to be protected from possible snipers outside the building. Other sources say that more than 700 protesters want to remain barricaded in the mosque, surrounded by armored vehicles and soldiers in riot gear. Some state media say that shots were fired from inside the building.

According to official sources yesterday at least 1,000 demonstrators were arrested, more than 500 in Cairo alone. Demonstrations also took place in other parts of the country. The updated death toll now stands at around 100 people, half of them in the provinces.

Witnesses report that not all of the protesters were helpless civilians.  Some were fully armed with automatic weapons. The army clashed with them when they tried to attack and set fire to government buildings and police stations. One of the buildings that was destroyed in the clashes was the Cairo blood bank, near Ramses Square, which houses millions of blood donations. The Islamists penetrated the building setting fire to it while employees trapped inside tried to save themselves. The pro-Morsi protesters even greeted firemen who rushed to the scene with gunfire.

As in recent days, pro-Morsi Islamists yesterday launched fresh attacks on churches and Christian buildings. Unconfirmed reports speak of more than 50 buildings affected, but a more objective verification by Christian organizations now confirms the sacking of five churches, in addition to the 39 buildings burned in recent days.

The Egyptian population seems to be increasingly siding with the army and especially against the Muslim Brotherhood who they are describing as  "terrorists" given the violence and radical Islamic nature of their projects. But within the National Liberation Front, a set of groups that led to the fall of Morsi, some are critical of the army's use of violence. Yesterday Khaled Dawoud, a spokesman for the Front, resigned, on the14th Vice-President Mohamed El-Baradei also resigned because he did not want to be associated with a "bloodbath which could have been avoided."

Yesterday pro-Morsi demonstrators received the support of fundamentalist groups close to Hamas in Jerusalem and Hebron. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran also spoke in favor of the Islamists. The army's heavy use of violence has also been criticized by Muslim groups in Indonesia and Malaysia. However, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan, Libya and Syria's support for the Egyptian government remains strong.

 

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