Dozens of people from the Muslim Brotherhood Rabea al-Adaweya sit-in were reportedly killed in the early hours of Saturday as police stopped an attempt to block a nearby bridge.
There is no confirmation of the exact death toll, but officials from the sit-in say over 70 have been killed. The Ministry of Health reported 28 dead bodies reaching public hospitals. Mada Masr’s reporters confirmed seeing over 20 dead bodies, mostly shot with live ammunition in the chest and the head.
The clashes started in the late evening of Friday when protesters from the Rabea al-Adaweya sit-in marched toward the October 6 Bridge and started blocking its entrance on Nasr Street, eyewitnesses said. The police intervened and fired tear gas to disperse them. Clashes started shortly after, with birdshot and live ammunition used.
In an eyewitness account, a BBC reporter said that the violence started when the Rabea protesters came close to the bridge near a war memorial. As the police called on them repeatedly to leave through loudspeakers, protesters reportedly threw Molotov cocktails at them. The police then responded brutally.
Another eyewitness account who lives 300 meters away from the site of the clashes said that the protesters of Rabea al-Adaweya were trying to expand their sit-in to the war memorial by setting up some tents there, an escalation which would have blocked movement in East Cairo extensively. When the police tried to disperse them with tear gas, they responded with birdshot and Molotov cocktails. At this point, the eyewitness said, armed men from nearby slums arrived and started firing at the Brotherhood with the police. Protesters in Rabea al-Adaweya confirmed to Mada Masr that they were attacked by “thugs” standing in front of the police.
When Mada Masr arrived on the scene, policemen in civilian clothes were already guarding the bridge. Special forces, evident from their uniform, were also deployed further toward the Rabea al-Adaweya sit-in, Mada Masr’s reporter said.
Rabea al-Adaweya protesters sent trucks, ambulances and private cars to carry the injured from near the bridge to the sit-in, which is about half a kilometer away. They also built a wall to stop the police from advancing to the sit-in.
In Rabea al-Adaweya, Mada Masr’s reporters said the field hospital was filled with dead bodies and injured protesters. They also reported a lack of resources to handle the high numbers of dead and wounded. Some doctors claimed that nearby hospitals refused to accept the injured.
Meanwhile, in a statement on Saturday, Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim denied the use of live ammunition and said that police had only used tear gas to disperse protesters. He said that Brotherhood members are the ones who stirred the clashes to gain sympathy at the end.
In a statement from Rabea al-Adaweya sent to reporters over email, protesters called for international support. “We, the protestors of Rabea al-Adaweya are being faced with a bloody massacre; more than 100 have been killed and more than 5000 wounded by 8 am with live ammunition at the hands of the military coup regime, by police forces, snipers and plain clothed policemen on the streets and buildings around our peaceful sit-in in Nasr City.”
“We call on all countries, humanitarian, health and rights organizations to save the sanctity of human life being massacred by the military regime and help secure peaceful protestors who are facing the ordeal of death and being sniped down in cold blood by police forces since yesterday evening till now,” the statement continued.
Ibrahim had told privately-owned satellite channels on Friday that the Rabea al-Adaweya sit-in would be dispersed in a “legal way” in the coming hours, as well as the Nahda sit-in near Giza Square. He added that protesters would not be hurt. In his Saturday statement, Ibrahim added that the Ministry of Interior is coordinating with the military to put an end to the sit-ins.
Meanwhile, the military’s spokesperson released a statement on Friday denying reports that an ultimatum was given to deposed President Mohamed Morsi’s supporters to leave the sit-in.
The violence erupted hours after Egypt witnessed large-scale protests in response to a call by the Armed Forces’ Commander in Chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who asked Egyptians to take to the streets to mandate him to combat terrorism.
The Rabea al-Adaweya sit-in was set to object to the Armed Forces’ ouster of Morsi on July 3. The leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood in the sit-in said that they would continue protesting until the deposed president is reinstated.