Egypt witnessed another day of bloody clashes on Friday as protests led by supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi quickly developed into violent clashes with security forces, leaving dozens dead and hundreds injured nationwide.
The protests, which were called for by the Muslim Brotherhood under the banner the “Friday of Rage,” were organised to respond to the security forces’ violent crackdown on pro-Morsi sit-ins on Wednesday.
On Friday, violence broke out in a number of districts in Greater Cairo, with the worst clashes concentrated around the central Ramses Square where pro-Morsi marches congregated.
Violence reportedly broke out between protesters and the neighbourhood’s residents as well as the police, and clashes continued into the evening, despite the curfew.
Similar clashes also broke out in nearby Galaa Street and the Ghamra area.
An Ahram Online correspondent spoke to a medic at the field hospital near the square who confirmed a figure of 54 dead.
The health ministry issued an initial report saying that 27 people have been injured nationwide. However, the ministry is yet to issue a final report on casualties.
In Shubra in north Cairo, clashes intensified late in the afternoon between residents and scores of “militants” supporting Morsi, state news agency MENA reported. Gunshots were heard during the clashes, the agency's correspondent said.
Shubra residents tried to force the attackers away from the district towards Al-Laymoun Bridge, leading to the Ramses area. Some groups of youths decided to form vigilante groups to defend Shubra police station against potential attacks.
In Giza's Dokki district, clashes were also reported between demonstrators and residents. Al-Jazeera English journalist Rawya Rageh reported via Twitter that there was "commotion" in the area.
"I see men running with pistols in side streets after gunshots heard as Muslim Brotherhood rally marched,” she wrote.
Not far away in Giza Square, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported clashes between security forces and pro-Morsi protesters, saying security forces fired teargas in an attempt to disperse the crowds.
Throughout the day, the army was deployed in areas around Cairo, particularly at Tahrir Square, a recently-common site for anti-Morsi demonstrators. Helicopters also hovered above the city.
The National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, an Islamist coalition supporting Morsi and led by the Brotherhood, vowed on Friday to continue protests every day of the coming week.
They said marches will continue, leaving from the same areas as they had on Friday, and stated that their demonstrations are “peaceful” and they reject any attacks on “religious or public property.”
Late on Friday, the military forces dispersed a gathering of pro-Morsi protesters in Suez city. According to Al-Ahram Arabic, they attempted to camp out in Shohada Square after the curfew fell at 7pm, prompting the army to disperse them.
Violent clashes also broke out in the canal city of Ismailiya, and in Tanta and Damietta, both in the Nile Delta.
In Alexandria, on the Mediterranean coast, at least 21 people were killed in clashes, according to local health ministry figures.
In Upper Egypt’s Fayoum, eight people died and 70 were injured following clashes between security forces and pro-Morsi protesters, medical sources reported. The clashes broke out when a pro-Morsi march reached Sawaqi Square and some young boys hurled stones at the marchers.
Some protesters seized an army tank but the army and a group of Fayoum residents managed to retrieve it, an eyewitness told Reuters’ Aswat Masriya website.
In Minya, also in Upper Egypt, assailants attacked and looted a number of churches, as well as the Good Shepherd School and the Tahrir Schools Complex, both Christian-run schools.
More than 32 churches have been burned or looted in the ongoing violence since Wednesday, with many other Christian-owned properties targeted nationwide. A large number of the attacks were in Minya, a region with a history of sectarian tensions.
European leaders spoke Friday about the need for a coordinated EU response to the violence in Egypt and agreed there should be a meeting of the European Union's foreign ministers next week to discuss it. French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for an end to violence and a resumption of dialogue in Egypt.
In Saudi Arabia, whose rulers have given financial assistance to the post-Morsi government in Egypt, the top religious cleric called on Egyptians to refrain from attacking police "as they are the ones who protect the country." The online Saudi newspaper Riyadh also quoted Grand Mufti Sheik Abdul-Aziz Al-Sheik, who holds the rank of cabinet minister, as saying that it would be "a great loss for the Muslim nation of Egypt, the big Islamic country, is destroyed."
In addition, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on Friday made a statement supporting Egypt’s government in its battle with “terrorism.”
Turkish officials kept up their criticism of the military government's crackdown, with President Abdullah Gul saying that "all that happened in Egypt is a shame for Islam and the Arab world." Turkey and Egypt recalled their ambassadors for consultations late Thursday as ties became strained.