Clashes across Egypt amid crackdown on Morsi loyalists

Muslim Brotherhood official claims that every single member of leadership group has been arrested or is wanted by police

The crackdown against Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood escalated on Friday as security forces guarding the country’s ousted president Mohamed Morsi shot and killed at least three of his supporters protesting outside the building in which he is being held and injured 15 more. It was reported that at least three more people were killed elsewhere in Egypt.

Clashes also erupted in central Cairo as pro and anti-Morsi supporters faced off near Tahrir Square for the first time since the elected leader was removed from office in a coup on Wednesday night.

The shootings came as a Brotherhood official claimed that every single member of the organisation’s leadership group – of which Morsi was once a senior member – had been arrested or was wanted by police, after new warrants were issued on Friday. A senior party official claimed they were now being accused not just of insulting the judiciary, but of inciting murder.

The Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, Mohammed Badie, who had reportedly been arrested on Thursday, appeared at a pro-Morsi rally where he remained defiant and called for followers of the former leader to stay on the streets until he is returned to office.

Tensions continued to rise across the country, with the Sinai peninsula placed on a state of emergency after gunmen attacked an airport – in an incident linked to rising Islamist fury at Morsi’s removal. There were also clashes reported in Luxor, Damanhour and Beni Suef, as Islamists protested across the country in what the Brotherhood and other Islamist groups had billed as a Day of Rejection.

In the evening, pro-Morsi protesters attempted to march from west Cairo to Tahrir Square, where hundreds of thousands of Morsi opponents have gathered since Sunday – and security forces fired shots to break up the ensuing confrontation.

The violence outside the Republican Guards’ building, where Morsi is being held, confirmed the worst fears of Islamists, who warned this week that they would face renewed violent oppression under the new military-backed regime.

Demonstrators at the scene said they had initially wanted to rescue the former president and escort him back to the presidential palace. But once the protesters – who marched on the site from two different mosques – arrived at around 3pm, they claimed that in fact they stayed back, chanting their support. According to one eyewitness, the shootings began half an hour later, after a man left the crowd, approached a barbed-wire fence protecting the compound – and fixed a Morsi poster to it. “Then he walked back,” said Anas Abdel Rahim, a 19-year-old salesman whose hands were covered with blood after a teenager was later shot in his arms.

“Then someone wearing civilian clothes [on the army’s side of the line] came to take the poster off the fence. People started shouting. He left it. He went to a soldier. They had a conversation. After the conversation the guy in civilian clothes started shooting.”

Following the shots, protesters started running and security officials fired teargas and birdshot into the crowds – many of whom were caught unawares. “They starting shooting, people started running, I was praying, and I got shot,” said Ahmed Mohamed, bent over by an ambulance as medics plucked birdshot pellets from his back.

The Guardian photographed live ammunition marked with army insignia at the scene. An army spokesman denied it was involved in the shooting.

A 50,000-strong pro-Morsi rally was held a short distance away, where Brotherhood officials admitted that the immediate operational future of the party, a strictly hierarchical group that relies heavily on its leaders, was in disarray. With all the members of its top-level Guidance Office likely to be arrested soon, and most of its 200-strong, second-tier Shura Council seemingly also sought by police, the Brotherhood faces the most serious disruption to its operational capacity in decades.

Senior Brotherhood officials appeared uncertain of who could take over in the event of Badie’s arrest.

Asked who could succeed the organisation’s spiritual leader, Mohamed Beltagy, a Brotherhood “guidance officer”, replied: “Whoever remains in the Guidance Office.” He said he expected to be arrested once he left the rally. After it was pointed out that no guidance officers might soon be left at liberty, Beltagy said: “These questions should be asked of the person that decided to leave the Brotherhood without leadership.”

Beltagy also said that Brotherhood leaders had started to be accused of “provoking murder”. But he said the Brotherhood would survive. “Attempts to destroy [us] have been going on for 80 years and have never succeeded.”

Salah Sultan, a senior Brotherhood official and Egypt’s deputy minister of Islamic affairs, said: “We will go underground if we have to.”

Egypt’s new interim president, Adly Mansour, is expected to move into the country’s presidential palace in north-east Cairo on Saturday – a compound occupied by Morsi aides only a few days ago. Mansour is expected to name the prime minister and may also name a cabinet, diplomatic sources said.

It was also announced that Egypt had been suspended from the African Union because of the circumstances of Morsi’s departure. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds