Alexandria violence leaves at least ten killed

Alexandria violence leaves at least ten killed

Supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi clash with pro-army demonstrators (not in picture) in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria on July 26, 2013.  (AFP PHOTO/STR)

Supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi clash with anti-Morsi demonstrators (not in picture) in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria on July 26, 2013.
(AFP PHOTO/STR)

At least ten, mostly anti-Morsi protesters, were killed in clashes which occurred around Al-Qaed Ibrahim Mosque in Alexandria on Friday and dragged into early Saturday.

Ministry of Interior (MOI) spokesman Hany Abdel Latif said ten residents were killed as a result of “clashes between residents and Muslim Brotherhood members.” During a press conference for the ministry, Abdel Latif said both parties exchanged rock-pelting and bird shot.

Evronia Azer, No Military Trials movement member in Alexandria, said the death toll is likely to increase given the severity of injuries of those currently in hospital. According to Azer, 35 were injured with live ammunition, most of them pro-army demonstrators.

“Both parties were reportedly armed,” Azer said. “Yet the pro-Morsi protesters’ arms were heavier.”

Mahinour Al-Massry, No Military Trials movement member in Alexandria, said doctors at the Alexandria University hospital, where most injuries are being treated, said the injuries are very grave.

“Most injuries reported, both gunshots and stabs, were categorised as attempted murder, not self-defence or [threat to do bodily harm],” Al-Massry said.

Families of the victims gathered outside the Alexandria morgue Saturday morning, where both Azer and Al-Massry were present.

Conflicting reports have arisen regarding the origins of the violence. Hamdy Khalaf, a lawyer in Alexandria, cited two possible scenarios according to eyewitness testimonies he collected. According to the first, pro-Morsi protesters were praying at Al-Qaed mosque when a pro-army march passed nearby, with certain pro-Morsi protesters harassing the march, and prompting clashes.

The second scenario states a small number of pro-army demonstrators were separated from the march, when they harassed pro-Morsi protesters and pelted them with rocks, said Khalaf.

Azer cited a third unconfirmed scenario where the pro-Morsi protesters allegedly clashed with residents.

Mohamed Soudan, Freedom and Justice Party spokesman in Alexandria, said pro-Morsi protesters were attacked during prayer by “almost 3,000 thugs” affiliated with security forces, both from the army and the police. Soudan denied that pro-Morsi protesters were armed.

“Who would carry arms while praying?” he said.

Khalaf claimed pro-Morsi protesters clashed with pro-army demonstrators, who were soon joined by residents. Khalaf said the pro-Morsi supporters used automatic rifles and birdshot, as well as bladed weapons. The clashes took place amid the complete withdrawal of police and army forces, Al-Masry and Khalaf said.

Pro-Morsi protesters took shelter in the mosque, alongside around 15 pro-army demonstrators. While Khalaf claimed the pro-army demonstrators were abducted inside the mosque by pro-Morsi protesters, Soudan claimed pro-army demonstrators raided the mosque to attack those inside.

“They included Copts,” Soudan said. “What would bring Copts into a mosque?” He claimed pro-army demonstrators entered the mosque to drag pro-Morsi protesters out. The latter were surrounded inside the mosque by residents and pro-army demonstrators.

On the other hand, Abdel Latif claimed some pro-Morsi protesters climbed the mosque’s minaret and fired gunshots at the residents and the security forces.

An online video showed pro-Morsi protesters interrogating injured pro-army demonstrators inside the mosque. “If someone breaks into the mosque to attack you, are you supposed to react by patting them on the shoulder?” Soudan said. “Of course pro-Morsi protesters beat them up.”

Police and army forces reappeared at Al-Qaed mosque after midnight, Khalaf said, where they tried to hold negotiations to free all those trapped inside the mosque. The negotiations finally proved fruitful early Saturday.

Soudan claimed 40 pro-Morsi protesters were arrested upon exiting the mosque. Khalaf stated that 115 protesters, from both parties, were referred to investigation Saturday morning.

Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim said in a press conference on Saturday that at least 14 were arrested for arms possession.

Millions of people took to the streets on Friday to answer the call of Minister of Defence Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi. On Wednesday, Al-Sisi called on Egyptians to demonstrate on Friday to authorise the army to “confront violence and terrorism”.­­

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