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Egyptian security forces take control of Cairo mosque after siege

Egyptian police are inside Al-Fath mosque after a long stand-off with a group of Islamist protesters who had barricaded themselves in

Ahram Online, Saturday 17 Aug 2013
Fath
Egypt police forces attempt to storm and clear Fath mosque in Cairo Saturday afternoon (Photo: Mai Shaheen)
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Egyptian Central Security Forces have taken control of a mosque in central Cairo after a long stand-off with Islamist protesters inside who had barricaded themselves in.

Intense clashes had been ongoing around Al-Fath Mosque in Ramses Square Saturday as security forces and those within the mosque exchanged gunfire. 

Army spokesman Ahmed Ali said on Saturday afternoon that "violent groups" had fired live ammunition from inside the mosque and on top of its minaret at army and police forces.

Earlier on Saturday Ahram Online's Bel Trew saw armed men shooting at army forces from inside the mosque's minaret. Forces on the ground were returning fire up at the shooters.

Thousands of angry residents of the Ramses district were also seen outside the mosque, some reportedly armed, trying to storm the building. Police are currently besieging the mosque and creating a buffer between the two groups.In an earlier statement on Saturday, Egypt's interior ministry repeated the military's claim about protesters firing from inside the mosque and said that protesters had refused to come out of the mosque

According to Ahram Online's reporter onsite, security forces had started to create an exit passage for Morsi supporters trapped in the mosque. However, the first person attempting to leave the mosque was attacked by angry residents at the scene.

State television reported that the Egyptian police have now arrested those protesters inside who were armed and have secured a safe passage for the others.

Friday saw fierce clashes around the mosque - and nationwide - between supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi and opponents, as well as with police.

In his statements, Ali also attacked the coverage of Qatar-owned news satellite channel Al Jazeera of the events at the mosque on Saturday, which suggested that security forces have been the ones firing from on top of the minaret.

"The military forces urge Egyptians not to depend on what is circulated in some media outlets that intentionally distorts facts for the sake of serving suspicious political interests," Ali said.

Qatar has been a close ally of Morsi during his one year in power, before he was ousted by the military in July.

Egypt has reached new heights of tension since security forces had moved to disperse the two pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo on Wednesday, leaving hundreds dead and sparking retaliatory violence nationwide.

Supporters of Morsi have vowed to continue protesting against the military-backed government, which in turn has asserted it will confront protesters - whom it has accused of committing "terrorist acts" – with all means necessary.

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