More clashes feared as protesters vow ‘Friday of anger’ in Egypt

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CAIRO, Egypt — As Egypt faces the gruesome aftermath of clashes that left hundreds dead, demonstrators plan to defy an emergency order and take to the streets to mark “Friday of anger.”

The Muslim Brotherhood promised huge protests, and Egypt’s military government showed no sign of easing its crackdown, setting the stage for what could become another catastrophic encounter of security forces and protesters.

Military vehicles were deployed Friday across Cairo and Giza, taking up positions in squares and securing important institutions, the state-run EGYNews reported. The agency said armored vehicles and barbed wire blocked all entrances to Tahrir Square, and 22 armored vehicles were in Mustafa Mahmoud Square.

The state-run agency said the military increased checkpoints at all entrances to Cairo to prevent arms smuggling to protesters.

Also Friday, at least 20 police officers were wounded when assailants opened fire on two security cars north of Cairo, according to EGYNews.

The leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom will have phone conversations to discuss Egypt, the office of French President Francois Hollande said. Hollande planned to talk to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Egyptian authorities rejected criticism from President Barack Obama and other world leaders for Wednesday’s ferocious clashes, which left at least 580 people dead when security forces broke up huge sit-ins in Cairo, according to the Health Ministry.

More than 4,000 were injured. Casualties included civilians, police officers and bystanders.

The protesters support former President Mohamed Morsy, a former Muslim Brotherhood leader elected president in 2012 whom the military removed July 3. Morsy and some other Brotherhood leaders are under arrest.

On Thursday, state media said Morsy supporters were attacking police stations, hospitals and government buildings outside Cairo. The Interior Ministry said police would use live ammunition against any further attacks.

There also were dozens of reports of attacks, blamed on Morsy supporters, on churches and other Christian facilities across the country .

The “Friday of Anger” will begin with marches from mosques around Cairo, which will converge in central Ramses Square, according to tweets from Gehad El-Haddad, a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s senior leader still at large, Essam Elerian, said Thursday the protests will continue until Morsy is returned to office.

“They can arrest me and 100 of us, but they can’t arrest every honorable citizen in Egypt,” Elerian told CNN. “They can’t stop this glorious revolution.”

Obama cancels joint military exercises

Obama on Thursday announced he had canceled joint U.S.-Egyptian military exercises, which had been scheduled for September.

“Our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back,” the president said.

He called on the Egyptian government to lift a state of emergency decree limiting public gatherings. Addressing the government’s opponents, Obama added, “We call on those who are protesting to do so peacefully and condemn the attacks that we’ve seen by protesters, including on churches.”

Churches, schools reported attacked

Dalia Ziada of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies said Thursday that her group had documented the burning of 29 churches and Coptic facilities across the country.

The Bible Society of Egypt said 15 churches and three Christian schools had been attacked, some set on fire.

State-run Nile TV reported Morsy supporters attacked a church Thursday in Fayoum, southwest of Cairo.

At least 84 people, including Muslim Brotherhood members, have been referred to military prosecutors for charges including murder and the burning of churches, the EGYNews site reported.

Echoes of violence

The violence echoed the upheaval that preceded the fall of Hosni Mubarak from the presidency in 2011. The military removed Mubarak after protests against his authoritarian rule, but not before an estimated 840 people were killed.

The generals yielded power to Morsy after elections, but the new president soon was accused of pursuing an Islamist agenda and excluding other factions from the government. Morsy’s supporters say the deposed president wasn’t given a fair chance and that the military has returned to its authoritarian practices of the Mubarak era.

The government reinforced the comparison by imposing a monthlong state of emergency, a favored tactic of Mubarak.

Obama warns ‘further steps’ could be taken

Obama, who has resisted calls to cut off military aid to Egypt and label Morsy’s ouster a coup, on Thursday stressed the United States would not support one political faction over another.

“We appreciate the complexity of the situation,” the president said. “While Mohamed Morsy was elected president in a democratic election, his government was not inclusive and did not respect the views of all Egyptians. We know that many Egyptians, millions of Egyptians, perhaps even a majority of Egyptians, were calling for a change in course.”

But he said he may take unspecified “further steps” because of the government’s crackdown.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay asked for an investigation into the violence.

“The number of people killed or injured, even according to the government’s figures, point to an excessive, even extreme, use of force against demonstrators,” she said.

Germany, France and other nations summoned Egypt’s ambassadors to their nations to express dismay over the violence, with Italy typical among them in criticizing the “force used by police (as) brutal, disproportionate and … not justifiable.”

Denmark suspended economic aid to the country.

Even predominantly Muslim nations voiced displeasure, with Turkey recalling its ambassador in Egypt to return to Ankara in light of the crisis, a Turkish foreign ministry representative said.

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