Live updates, part 2: Hundreds of thousands at pro-Morsi rally in Cairo; 2 dead in Alexandria clashes

Hazel Haddon, Randa Ali, Salma Shukrallah, Sherif Tarek, Friday 28 Jun 2013

Hundreds of thousands turn out to support President Morsi in Cairo, but impromptu opposition rallies in Tahrir Square also draw thousands; fierce clashes in the Nile Delta lead to two deaths, including one American citizen

President Morsi's supporters gather at Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque in the suburb of Nasr City, Cairo, June 28, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

24:25  That's all for tonight. Protesters have now largely dispersed in Alexandria, where violence injured over 88 and killed two, including an American, according to official health ministry figures. There were violent clashes in a number of other governorates, particularly in the Nile Delta, although anti-Morsi rallies were also held in Suez Canal cities and in Aswan.

In Cairo, numbers at the pro-Morsi rally have now decreased a little from their afternoon peak of hundreds of thousands. Many demonstrators are bedding in for the night. An ad hoc decision by anti-Morsi groups to demonstrate in Tahrir Square on Friday saw a turnout of tens of thousands. Those numbers too are now dropping off, although some tents have been set up for a sit-in.

Thank you for following Ahram Online's coverage, and stay tuned for further live updates on Sunday, when nationwide anti-Morsi protests are planned.

24:15 According to Ahram Arabic, the number of injured in the accidental explosion in Port Said has reached 12.

The man who died in the accident was revealed to be Salah Hassan, a 38-year-old journalist for Shaab Masr newspaper.

24:10 At the Islamist rally in Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque, construction engineer Tarek Bayoumy, who is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood's administrative office in Suez, explained to Ahram Online’s Eslam Omar his definition of the much used term "the Islamic project.”

"It means that we abide by the Islamic doctrine and teachings in every aspect of life. Islam says religion and the state should not be separate," said Bayoumy.

24:05 The mood in Alexandria’s Sidi Gaber is now calm, with protesters dispersing after a long day of violent clashes, reports Ahram Arabic.

Islam El-Hadary, an opposition activist, told Ahram that the anti-Morsi groups have no intention of holding a sit-in tonight, to avoid any further clashes.

“The political forces decided to hold the sit-in starting 30 June at Sidi Gaber Square,” added El-Hadary.

24:00 There is yet another report of an FJP office attacked by anti-Morsi protesters in the Nile Delta.

The Freedom and Justice Party’s headquarters in Al-Khanka in Qalioubiya governorate were raided by locals on Friday evening, reported state-owned news agency MENA.

According to eyewitnesses, the office was empty at the time of the attack.

23:45 Ahram Online's Eslam Omar says that the number of Islamist protesters near Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque in Cairo is decreasing. "Many have joined the sit-in and are sleeping, while others left and will come back to the open-ended sit-in another time," he reports.

"One group of protesters has decided to jog around the square to stay active."

23:40 A foreign woman was beaten up and dragged for several metres in Tahrir Square after a group of protesters were enraged when they saw her taking photos and shooting videos, according to Ahram Arabic.

According to the report, the woman was asked to leave because she was a foreigner. She was supported by other protesters who argued that she had the right to stay.

A heated verbal argument soon developed into a scuffle, which saw the woman attacked, sustaining several injuries as a result.

The group of protesters who were supporting the woman escorted her towards the Egyptian Museum in the north of the square to protect her from the assaults.

23:35 Minister of Health Mohamed Mostafa Hamed announced that the total number of deaths today stands at 2, and the number of injured has reached 139.

In Alexandria, two were killed, including an Egyptian who died from a bullet to the head, and an American who was reportedly stabbed in his chest. Identities of the two dead have not been confirmed.

The injuries in Alexandria have been estimated to be 88 in total. In Cairo two were injured, in Gharbiya 7, in Beheira 7 and in Daqahliya 35.

The minister did not give any more information on the reports of a third death in Alexandria.

23:30 There are reports coming in of an accidental explosion in Port Said. According to Ahram Online’s reporter in the field, the explosion took place during an anti-Morsi rally in Al-Shuhadaa Square, after fireworks hit a butane gas cylinder in a vendor’s cart.

At least one was killed and dozens injured in the explosion.

23:25 According to Ahram Online’s Sayyed Gamal, the head of the field hospital in Alexandria has said that the death toll in the coastal city has reached three, including the deaths of an Egyptian and an American reported earlier in the day.

23:20 Moving to Upper Egypt, opposition forces in Aswan’s Komombo held a meeting to discuss how to protect the anti-Morsi protests on 30 June.

“We will defy any attempt of vandalism or spreading of chaos,” Ahmed El-Garfy, secretary general of Karama Party in Komombo told Ahram Arabic, stressing that revolutionary forces are not responsible for protest violence.

El-Garfy further called on security forces to secure the protests.

Earlier in the day, Aswan witnessed rallies by hundreds of pro-Morsi supporters in Martyrs Square.

23:15 In Alexandria, field doctor Tarek Mokhtar tells Ahram Online that he left the clashes at around 9pm, as things were calming down. He estimates that around a hundred people were injured; three were in critical condition and one died, a death that was reported earlier in the day. Most of the injuries were from birdshot.

23:00 According to Ahram Arabic, numbers of protesters in Port Said Square in Kafr El-Sheikh city are increasing, and those present have started setting up tents in preparation for a sit-in “until the regime falls.”

Several of the protesters were chanting pro-military slogans, demanding that the army takes over until presidential elections take place.

22:50 The Muslim Brotherhood Students have released a statement condemning the killing of member Hossam Shawky in Zagazig. According to the statement, Shawky was shot during the attack on the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters yesterday.

The group say they hold accountable the anti-Morsi Rebel campaign, the Constitution Party and the Egyptian Popular Current “for giving political legitimacy to thuggery and the remnants of the ousted regime.”

The statement demanded that those responsible for the killing are held accountable, that all violence is condemned and not provided with political legitimacy, and that security officials in Sharqiya are questioned for failing to protect citizens.

22:30 At the Cairo pro-Morsi rally, a demonstrator from Mansoura who wanted to remain anonymous told Ahram Online's Eslam Omar that some protesters had bought helmets and uniforms with their own money, and brought sticks to use as weapons for defence against possible attacks, not to attack opponents.

According to the demonstrator, security at the rally has been quite organised. Demonstrators from each governorate are responsible for securing a particular area.

"Each [security] group is deployed in way that give the impression their numbers are bigger, leaving spaces between each individual."

Not everyone at the rally seems to be there for political reasons. Doctor Essam Abdel-Zaher Osman, who is the head of a health ministry medical center in Cairo, tells Ahram Online he is in Sharqiya as part of an official campaign to encourage people to donate blood.

22:15 Other sources are suggesting different names for the American who was killed today; Egyptian news website Al-Masry Al-Youm names him as Andrew Piroso.

22:00 According to security sources, the American citizen killed today in Alexandria was Victor Andrew, a photojournalist. The details have not yet been officially confirmed.

21:50 At the pro-Morsi rally in Cairo, where demonstrators have declared an open-ended sit-in, prominent Muslim Brotherhood member Mohamed El-Beltagy took to the stage to stress that “legitimacy is a red line.”

"Our calls to our brothers of [anti-Morsi campaign] Rebel and those opposing Morsi continue...I’m telling them, join us in the revolution like you did before and wash your hands of cooperation with the remnants of the old regime...Our fight is with remnants of the former regime and not with you,” he said.

21:40 Friday has seen considerable violence outside the capital; a number of Brotherhood offices have been ransacked, and two people have died so far, both in Alexandria. One is reportedly an American citizen, but the identity and affiliation of either has not been confirmed.

Liberal opposition figure and member of the National Salvation Front Amr Hamzawy responded by condemning violence, saying on his official Twitter account on Friday:

“No one in search of change and democracy can get involved in violence and thuggery, as is happening in more than one governorate now.

“To all those demanding early presidential elections, stay away from violence….all those of you demonstrating peacefully, stay away from the circles of violence and away from thugs.

“I condemn attacks against Muslim Brotherhood and Freedom and Justice Party headquarters and all forms of violence...all victims are Egyptian; there is no difference between a Brotherhood member or anyone else.”

Hamzawy said he had refrained from participating in the Friday demonstrations “to avoid violence and incitement,” but said he would participate “peacefully” in the 30 June mass anti-Morsi rallies.

21:30 Speaking to Al-Jazeera Mubashir Misr, General Amin Ezzeddin, a senior Alexandria security official, said that “all types of weapons” were used in the clashes in Alexandria on Friday, including guns and bladed weapons.

Ezzedin added that most of the injuries were caused by birdshot or bullets.

21:20 In Tahrir, there are mixed feelings about the possible role of the military. Some protesters tore apart a banner reading ‘the military and the people are one hand.”

Tension about the position of the military has been mounting since the last demonstration in Tahrir on 26 June, when some protesters chanted for military and others against. A decision was announced on stage to limit chants to those against the Muslim Brotherhood, to avoid conflict over the issue.

Disputes repeatedly erupted on Friday when some attempted to chant the old slogan, often heard during the early days of the 2011 revolution, of “the people and the army are one hand,” while others attempted to chant against the military.

A split screen image captures Egypt's polarisation between the two sides: Tahrir Square on the left, and the Islamist protest in Nasr City on the right.

21:10 Anti-American feeling was not just seen in Tahrir Square; in the city of Suez, hundreds of anti-Morsi protesters took to the streets in the afternoon holding banners with slogans against both President Mohamed Morsi and US ambassador Anne Patterson, reported Ahram Arabic.

The protest took place in Al-Arbeen Square and was called for by the anti-Morsi ‘Rebel’ campaign, the National Salvation Front and several youth movements.

According to Ahram, supporters of the Islamist president were absent in the canal city, having largely headed to Cairo earlier in the day to take part in the mass pro-Morsi rallies in Nasr City.

21:00 An American citizen has been killed in Alexandria, bringing the day's death toll to two. Reuters reported that:

"The man died from a stab wound to the chest, said General Amin Ezzeddin, a senior Alexandria security official. The account was confirmed by Ibrahim al-Roubi, head of the emergency unit in the Alexandria health department, and two other security officials."

20:50 According to Ahram Arabic, the number of anti-Morsi protesters gathering outside the presidential palace in Cairo’s Heliopolis has reached around a thousand.

20:40 The Muslim Brotherhood have released a statement vowing to take legal action against the National Salvation Front, remnants of the now-defunct National Democratic party, and the Rebel campaign, accusing them of being responsible for the torching of the Freedom and Justice Party’s headquarters in Alexandria today.

They also accused members of the Egyptian Popular Current and the Revolutionary Socialists of taking part in the assault.

20:30 Numbers at the Islamist rally in Cairo have increased now that the sun has set. Ahram Online’s Eslam Omar reports that there are people there of different ages, both men and women, as well as whole families.

Speaking on the stage around half an hour ago, prominent Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya figure Assem Abdel-Maged, a staunch supporter of President Morsi, said Islamists forces can reconcile with "deceived" [anti-Morsi] protesters, but not "conspirators, who the president must deal harshly with," to raptorous applause from the gathered demonstrators.

20:20 Ahram Online’s Reem Gehad is still in Tahrir Square, where she says there is no sign so far of the sexual harassment that often plagues large gatherings in this spot.

Hayat Mohamed, 50, from Cairo’s Matareya district, is one of the many women participating in the protest. Mohamed, who used to work in one of the recreation clubs for the armed forces, tells Ahram Online that she no longer trusts the “intellectuals who defended the Muslim Brotherhood” and wants the army back.

“I want [Defence Minister] General Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to take over power,” she says.

In another corner of the square, a banner showing the image of US president Barack Obama reads “Obama funds terrorism.”

Volunteers with the anti-Morsi ‘Rebel’ signature drive are moving around the square urging protesters to sign the petition demanding Morsi step down.

20:15 At the Islamist protest in Nasr City, a television crew was reportedly assaulted by protesters, who tried to destroy their equipment and eject them from the Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque where they were filming.

In the scuffle, one of the worshippers performing dusk prayers was knocked over, and a number of people held aloft copies of the Quran while voicing objections to the assault on the crew, reported Ahram Arabic.

Although crew members apparently told onlookers they work for Al Jazeera, some of the Brotherhood supporters accused them of working for Egyptian channel CBC.

CBC is owned by Mohamed El-Amin, who was mentioned by President Morsi in his last speech, describing him as one of the businessmen who are allegedly trying to deploy his resources to topple the incumbent Islamic regime.

20:10 Over at Cairo’s Ittihadiya presidential palace, not far from the mass Islamist rallies, a few dozen anti-Morsi protesters turned up outside Gate 4, holding red cards in reference to their demand that the president step down. The palace is on high alert in anticipation of possible violence over the weekend, with major opposition rallies planned at the site.

MENA state news agency reported that protesters distributed red flyers with the word "leave" emblazoned on them, while chanting similar slogans.

Ahram Online highlights centres where pro-Morsi rallies began marching and the major gathering points (Credits: DigitalGlobe Copyrights 2013 Google ORION-ME)

20:00 Amid accusations from the Brotherhood that it is responsible for violent clashes, the anti-Morsi ‘Rebel’ campaign has released a statement via their official Twitter account, stressing that shedding of any Egyptian blood is wrong, regardless of the person’s religious or political affiliation.

The campaign stated that governorates have witnessed around 420 injuries on Friday, in addition to the arrest of 27 Muslim Brotherhood supporters for possessing guns.

“The Rebel campaign doesn’t call or incite against public or private organisations,” read the statement, stressing that the campaign embraces a peaceful path to democratic change.

Violent clashes caused the death of one person in Alexandria on Friday. Four others have died in similar clashes in cities in the Nile Delta since Wednesday,

19:45 The city of Damietta in the Nile Delta is also seeing large demonstrations against Morsi.

Ahram Arabic reports that the Corniche road and Damietta Freedom Square are filled with around 15,000 protesters who are demanding that the president step down.

19:30 One of the questions on everyone’s mind in Egypt as these protests unfold is, what action will the army take? So far, statements by the military have been ambiguous.

The official armed forces spokesman, Ahmed Ali spoke to MENA state news agency on Friday, saying that the army has deployed troops all over Egypt to protect Egyptian citizens and their property.

“Such measures are taken to avoid the 28 January 2011 scenario,” Ali said.

Over at the defence ministry in Cairo's Abbasiya, about half way between the Nasr City Islamist rally and the anti-Morsi protesters in Tahrir Square, a small sit-in by a few dozen protesters is entering its seventh day. The protesters are calling for Morsi to be dismissed and for the defence minister, Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, to take power directly.

19:20 Violence seems to be largely confined, so far, to the Nile Delta, where offices of the FJP and the Brotherhood in a number of different governorates have been ransacked - in the coastal city of Alexandria; in Gharbiya; in Kafr El-Sheikh; in Daqahliya and in Beheira.

As of 7pm, violent clashes had been reported in a number of Nile Delta cities between pro- and anti- Brotherhood protesters, with a number of Brotherhood and FJP offices being ransacked.

In Beheira, clashes reportedly occurred after protesters raided the Brotherhood headquarters in a local city. The Brotherhood has released a statement accusing the “remants of the former regime” and members of the anti-Morsi ‘Rebel’ campaign, who they desribed as “thugs,” of perpetrating the attack.

They further accused the police of hanging up on the Islamist group’s members when they called for help.

19:15 The numbers of protesters in Tahrir Square continue to increase as dusk prayers take place.

Ibrahim Saeed, a 53-year-old trader, tells Ahram Online that he does not have a car and does not suffer from the fuel crisis but “I take public transportation and I suffer from traffic jams, increased fares...Morsi has made the situation deteriorate.”

19:10 Anti-US feeling among some of the protesters in Tahrir Square seems to be running high. Rawya Rageh, an Al Jazeera English reporter, tweets that some protesters are carring pictures of US ambassador to Egypt Ann Paterson with a big red 'X' over her face.

19:05 Prominent opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei tweets, denouncing violence.

“I strongly condemn violence in all forms against people irrespective of their beliefs or identity. The more peaceful, the stronger we become,” said ElBaradei, in English.

19:00 Ahram Online’s Reem Gehad reports that one street vendor in Tahrir Square is selling pictures of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, as well as former presidents Gamal Abdel-Nasser and Anwar El-Sadat.

Activist Abdel-Rahman Mansour of the Khaled Said Facebook page has said on Twitter that he left the square after seeing pictures of Mubarak being freely distributed among protesters.

“Came back from Tahrir Sq hour ago, pix of ousted Mubarak r distributed among ppl &many take them gladly. This isnt our revolution,” he wrote.

Other activists have responded denying they have seen the pictures of Mubarak while in Tahrir square.

Ahram Online asked several protesters what they thought of Mubarak’s pictures being sold by the street vendor, but they all denied seeing any pictures.

Brotherhood figures in recent weeks have increasingly stressed allegations that the opposition to Morsi is linked with the former Mubarak regime. Gehad El-Haddad, a leading FJP figure, tweets about the Tahrir Square protest that: “Photo of deceased #Muarak #NDP leader "Kamal Shazly" carried in #Anti_Morsi protests today.”

18:50 Ahram Online's Eslam Omar reports that two men accused of stealing were assaulted by some of the protesters in Rabaa Al-Adawiya.

"Many other protesters were against using physical aggression against them, but some individuals beat them up," he says.

"They were eventually handed over to organisers wearing helmets, who in turn interrogated them… in general, organisers are maintaining tight security."

18:45 Muslim cleric Safwat Hegazy, known for his staunch support for the Muslim Brotherhood, took the podium at the Nasr City rally to hit out at the opposition for "using deadly force against Islamists and Brotherhood members."

"Who died over the past few days?" he asks, referring to several Islamists who were reported killed in clashes in different governorates recently. "The president must use an iron fist to reply to such attacks."

Hegazy also has stern words for the head of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayyeb, reiterating the allegation that he assumed a high-ranking position in the now-dismantled National Democratic Party, which was led by former president Hosni Mubarak.

"We would never make allies with the remnants of the former regime, unlike the opposition," Hegazy says.

18:40 Back in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, it looks like the numbers of anti-Morsi protesters have reached the tens of thousands. Sameh Samir, a 33-year-old designer, tells Ahram Online’s Reem Gehad that he thinks the best alternative to President Morsi is a presidential council that has both civilians and military personnel to guarantee consensus.

18:30 One person has died in the Alexandria clashes, reports state-owned agency MENA.

According to Osama Abou El-Sooud, director of Alexandria university's main hospital, the protester was declared dead on his way to the hospital, after he was injured by birdshot.

Another 70 injured people are being treated at the hospital.

Alexandria has been witnessing violent clashes today, with the offices of the FJP in the Alexandrian district of Sidi Gabr being set on fire, leading to 40 reported injuries, according to Ahram Online's Sayyed Gamal.

18:25 Media secretary of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, Mona Ezzat, has released a statement saying one of the party members was injured by live ammunition during clashes in Alexandria and has been transferred to hospital.

According to Ezzat, two other party members, Hamed El-Borai and Mohamed Refaat, were injured by birdshot in an attack allegedly by members of the Muslim Brotherhood as they were protesting near Sidi Gaber.

Opponents of President Morsi chant slogans as fire rages at the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Alexandria, Friday, June 28, 2013 (Photo: AP)

Ahram Online highlights centres where pro-Morsi rallies began marching and the major gathering points
(Credits: DigitalGlobe Copyrights 2013 Google ORION-ME)

18:15 Good afternoon, and welcome to the second part of Ahram Online's live blog covering Friday's protests. You can find the first part here.

Morsi's supporters are out in force for a show of strength in Cairo's Nasr City. The rally at Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque, organised by a new Islamic alliance which includes the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, has drawn hundreds of thousands.

Meanwhile, opposition protests are underway in Tahrir Square, with several thousand present. There have also been anti-Morsi rallies and protests in a number of governorates outside Cairo, including Alexandria, Sharqiya, Gharbiya, Kafr El-Sheikh and Daqahliya. Clashes have been reported in Alexandria, and we are getting some reports that one person has died.

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