Egypt readies for more violence after 51 killed in clashes

Country on alert after Morsi supporters killed in what Muslim Brotherhood calls massacre, and military calls self defence

Egypt was braced for more mass protests on Tuesday in the wake of the killing of 51 supporters of the deposed president, Mohamed Morsi, as political leaders bargained over the creation of a civilian transitional government to rule with military support, until new elections are held next year.

Samir Radwan, favourite to become prime minister, told the Guardian that his priorities, if appointed, would be tackling the economy and “national reconciliation” – vital in an atmosphere of extreme polarisation.

Pro-Morsi crowds were still gathering in Cairo near the scene of Monday’s killings, described as a massacre by Muslim Brotherhood supporters but defended by the army as a response to a “terrorist” attack.

Egyptian media came out in solid and uncritical support of the military but key details of what happened remain unexplained.

Funerals and a commemoration ceremony for the victims were being held in a highly charged atmosphere, with the Brotherhood promising to mount a “million for the martyrs” protest as the Ramadan holiday began. Tahrir Square in central Cairo was quiet, but Morsi supporters were being kept away.

The Brotherhood and other Islamist groups also quickly rejected a declaration by the interim president, Adly Mansour, calling for new parliamentary elections by February after a referendum on an amended draft constitution, and then another presidential race.

Morsi, now under house arrest, won last year’s election by a narrow majority against an old-regime candidate. The president’s supporters say he was deposed by a military coup. Opponents call his removal by the military a continuation of the 2011 revolution.

Issam el-Erian, deputy chairman of the Brotherhood’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice party, called the declaration “a constitutional decree by a man appointed by putchists”, which “brings the country back to square one”.

Radwan, Egypt’s former finance minister, meanwhile emerged as the latest favourite to take over as interim prime minister, after Salafi groups – who had vetoed Mohamed ElBaradei’s appointment to the same post – publicly endorsed his nomination.

Radwan said if chosen his priorities would be the economy and healing the deep divisions in Egyptian society. “We must work really hard on reconciliation – a la South Africa, after apartheid,” Radwan said. The economist is one of at least three politicians to have been considered for the premiership after Baradei was vetoed and lawyer Ziad Bahaa Eldin allegedly turned it down.

At Cairo’s Zeinhom morgue mourners of those killed in Monday’s violence were still waiting for their friends’ bodies to be released – many still coming to terms with the horror of what happened.

“It was barbaric,” said Mohamed Abu Sayed, a lecturer at al-Azhar University, who was waiting for the body of his friend Mohamed Abdel Rahman, a chemist. “It was a black day in the history of Egypt’s army,” Sayed said, calling for Islamists to continue their peaceful resistance in response. © 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