CAIRO – At least one demonstrator was killed Friday in clashes between supporters of Egypt’s ousted president, Mohamed Morsi, and security forces outside the headquarters of the Republican Guard, news reports said.
An ambulance medic said he saw several people dead of gunshot wounds but couldn’t confirm the number.
Video images captured at the scene showed a demonstrator in a gray T-shirt run up to a barbed-wire fence surrounding the Republican Guard facility were Morsi was reported to be under military arrest and then collapse in a heap after shots were fired.
But there were conflicting witness accounts of the incident. Some said that police officers in civilian clothes, who were standing near soldiers, shot live bullets and birdshot at the mostly Islamist protesters. Others said that some in the demonstration provoked the army, which fired tear gas and birdshot but no live rounds.
State media, quoting a “security source,” denied that there had been any injuries in the incident.
While the clashes were going on, Egypt’s military-backed interim leader, Adly Mahmoud Mansour, dissolved the upper house of parliament in another attempt to curtail the influence of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement.
The normally weak Shura Council, which was dominated by Muslim Brotherhood members, became a legislative rubber stamp for Morsi to push through laws and expand his power after the lower house of parliament was dissolved by court order last year.
Egypt’s army has said it would allow peaceful protests, but the deadly clash raised fears of wider violence on what Morsi's supporters dubbed a “Friday of Rejection.”
Tens of thousands rallied in Cairo’s Nasr City section to protest the removal of Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected leader, in a military coup on Wednesday following massive public protests against his leadership.
Led by a cleric who is sympathetic to Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement, a large crowd marched from the Nasr City demonstration to the Republican Guard facility, which is about a half-mile away, in eastern Cairo, witnesses said.
Morsi's opponents planned to stage a counter-demonstration in Tahrir Square later Friday, following afternoon prayers. Human Rights Watch said that at least 32 Egyptians, both supporters and opponents of Morsi, have been killed in political unrest since late June and called for an impartial investigation into the violence.
The military has suspended the constitution, dissolved parliament and installed an interim president but has yet to announce a date for new elections.
Mansour appointed two top advisors Friday as a step toward fresh elections and perhaps a new constitution, the Egyptian website Al Ahram reported.
The uncertainty in Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous nation, continued to reverberate throughout the region as the African Union said it had suspended Egypt’s membership “until the restoration of constitutional order.”
Egypt also closed its border crossing into the Palestinian territory of Gaza, Egyptian media reported, after gunmen in the restive Sinai Peninsula killed an Egyptian soldier and wounded two others in an attack in the border city of Rafah. It wasn’t immediately clear if the attack was related to the coup against Morsi.
Hassan is a Times special correspondent.