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Fierce clashes erupt across Egypt

Fierce clashes erupted across Egypt on Friday as thousands of supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi took to the streets in the aftermath of government raids on pro-Morsi protest camps that left hundreds dead. Our correspondents Abigail Hauslohner and Liz Sly are reporting from Cairo. Read our report here.

Below, a video posted by Egyptian news Website El Badil shows protesters running away amid heavy gunfire on a street in Giza.

Roundup of today's news

A plainclothed police officer aims his weapon towards supporters of Morsi in the Zamalek neighborhood of Cairo on Aug. 16, 2013. (AP)

A plain-clothed police officer aims his weapon towards supporters of Morsi in the Zamalek neighborhood of Cairo on Aug. 16, 2013. (AP)

Here is a summary of headlines from some of the day’s major developments.

- Fierce clashes erupted across the country on Friday as thousands of supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi took to the streets in the aftermath of government raids on pro-Morsi protest camps that left hundreds dead. According to the latest report from Associated Press, the death toll from Friday’s clashes had reached at least 60.

- Throughout the day, the army is said to be have placed tanks around Tahrir Square, blocking all entrances to prevent Brotherhood supporters from gathering there. The Interior Ministry called on all Egyptians to avoid Galaa Square, Ramses Square and the Nile Corniche to allow it to “combat terrorism.”

- In a brief statement read by a television presenter, Saudi King Abdullah said that his country stands in full support of Egypt against “terrorism” and accused “outsiders” of trying to destabilize the country by intervening.

- The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs defended the military’s decision to storm the pro-Morsi sit-ins on Wednesday, saying, “the Government has no option or alternative…”

- Videos posted online on Friday showed men armed with guns shooting as they walked among protesters on the May 15 bridge and outside the Four Seasons Hotel.

- The European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton asked the organization’s member countries on Friday to consider “appropriate measures” in reaction to violence in Egypt. Senior EU diplomats are scheduled to meet on Monday.

EU urges united response to Egypt violence

The European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has asked the organization’s member countries on Friday to consider “appropriate measures” in reaction to violence in Egypt, according to Reuters. ”I have been in constant touch with European Union foreign ministers, and I have asked member state representatives to debate and coordinate appropriate measures to be taken,”she said in a statement.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who spoke with French President Francois Hollande by phone, said Germany would review its relations with Egypt and the EU should do the same.

Hollande also spoke with Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta. The two men called for an end to violence in Egypt and a return to national dialogue and elections, a statement from Hollande’s office read.

British Prime Minister David Cameron called European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to express his concern.

“They agreed on the need for the EU to send a strong and united message that the violence must end and that there should be transition to a genuine democracy, which would require compromise from all sides,” Cameron’s office said.

Senior diplomats from the European Union are scheduled to meet in Brussels on Monday to decide on any action that the organization will take.

There has not been any statement from the White House on today’s incidents. On Thursday, President Obama said the United States would cancel the biennial joint military training exercise with Egypt, while leaving more than $1 billion in annual military aid in place.

Inside a makeshift morgue

Earlier today, the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen was at a mosque near Ramses Square which had been turned into a makeshift morgue, where several injured people were being brought in and those killed were being taken away for burial. According to Bowen, “so many bodies have been brought in that doctors have had to send out for more cotton to wrap them in.”

Watch the full video from inside the mosque here.

Video shows unarmed men being shot

A video posted on YouTube by Abdullah Shousha shows a group of protesters who are shouting “Peaceful!” with their arms up in the air coming under gunfire from security forces in the town of  Ismailiya. David Clinch, the executive editor of Storyful, said that his team had verified that the video was from Ismailiya from earlier today.

Earlier today, the BBC confirmed that four people have been killed in Ismailiya during clashes between security forces and pro-Morsi supporters. However, it is not clear if the report is referring to the video above.

What's next for Egypt?

Egypt’s popular pseudonymous blogger The Big Pharoah has posted a Q&A-style blog post on his Web site, in which he argues that clearing the pro-Morsi sit-ins on Wednesday was a mistake and the interim government should have left the protesters there alone and “allowed them to wither by themselves.”

His prediction for what’s next? “This country will not see any democracy until a viable alternative to the army and the Islamists is found,” he writes.

Two important questions he answers in his post, highlighted below:

Was June 30 a mistake?

You cannot label the largest demonstrations in the history of Egypt as a “mistake” nor can you claim that it was the right thing to happen. June 30 was inevitable, it was understandable and Morsi could have saved us all from this bloodshed if he heeded to the millions who demanded his resignation, throngs that far outnumbered any MB rally I’ve seen since Mubarak’s demise.

Personally, I was in favor that Morsi completes his term and I believe one year was not enough for the general public to see the true colors of the MB. However I fully understand the reasons behind June 30 and why millions of Egyptians saw in the army as the only state institution capable of rescuing the country from a ruling organization that lost a huge part of its popular support.

The massacre did not happen because the army is now in control, bloodshed has been the norm in Egypt since the 2011 revolution. Bloodshed also happened under Morsi, the police committed a massacre in Port Said that claimed the lives of  52 people. Back then the MB and their followers were justifying the police’s actions because their man was president.

What should happen to the MB?

I am a great proponent of including the MB in the political process but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. One of the main reasons why the MB fell was the fact that they tried to run the country exclusively. This is not possible in post-revolution Egypt. Their vanity killed them. And this could happen to anyone who decides to rule like the MB.

The MB should be included in the political process. And the MB should understand that Egypt is far big to be considered a branch in their transnational organization. Unfortunately, this won’t be happening anytime soon.

You can read his full post here.

'What we've become'

Cairo-based photojournalist and blogger Mosa’ab ElShamy posted this photograph, which in itself tells a lot about events during the last three days in Egypt.

AP: Death toll rises to 60

According to the Associated Press, Egyptian security officials have said the death toll in clashes across the country on Friday has reached at least 60.

Earlier, Reuters cited a security official who said at least 24 police officers had been killed since late last night.

On Thursday, the total number of deaths from Wednesday’s violence was said to have reached 638, which marked the deadliest day in Egypt since the 2011 uprising that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak.

McCain: Egypt being taken 'down a dark path'

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have released a joint statement on Egypt sharply criticizing the interim government’s actions. The two senators visited Egypt just a week before the crackdown on pro-Morsi sit-ins to urge the military and Islamists to reconcile and avoid violence.

“The massacre of civilians this week in Egypt has brought our longstanding relationship with that country to a fork in the road. The interim civilian government and security forces – backed up, unfortunately, by the military – are taking Egypt down a dark path, one that the United States cannot and should not travel with them,” the statement says.

More from Sen. McCain’s Web site, where the statement was posted:

“We condemn all acts and incitement of violence against civilians, including those that supporters of former president Mohamed Morsi have committed against Christians and other Egyptians. At the same time, we cannot be complicit in the mass slaughter of civilians. It is neither in our long-term national interest nor consistent with our values and laws to continue providing assistance at this time to Egypt’s interim government and military. We urge the Obama Administration to suspend U.S. assistance to Egypt and make clear to the current leadership of the country what steps we believe are necessary to halt Egypt’s descent into civil conflict and ultimately to restore our assistance relationship, which has historically served U.S. national security interests.

“This week’s horrific violence has only made the difficult goal of national reconciliation in Egypt even harder to achieve, but there is no decent or effective alternative to that process. Egyptians bear the responsibility for recent events in their country, and for its future. It is clear that most Egyptians do not want a radical Islamist government or a return to military rule. There are steps that all sides can take to save Egypt from a future of protracted instability and stagnation, but Egyptians must make these choices themselves.

“U.S. influence over events in Egypt, and the Middle East more broadly, has always been limited, but it is still considerable. Whether it is Egypt, Syria, Iraq, or the wider region, the failure of the Obama Administration to use our influence to shape events in this critical part of the world has only diminished our credibility, limited our influence, and constrained our policy options. The events now unfolding in Egypt and the Middle East will directly impact the national security interests of the United States, and we cannot remain disengaged.”

Video shows clashes at Four Seasons Hotel

A video posted by El Badil TV on YouTube shows intense clashes outside the Four Seasons Hotel, which is on the Nile Corniche. The footage shows armed men with their faces covered shooting amid the sounds of heavy gunfire.

There had been reports on Twitter about pro-Morsi supporters attacking the luxury hotel.

Curfew begins in Cairo

The military-enforced curfew has begun in Cairo for Friday.

State TV video shows armed men amid protesters

A video that was broadcast earlier on state television has just been posted on Twitter by the Egyptian cabinet, addressed “to international media.” The video shows men armed with guns shooting as they walk among protesters on the May 15 bridge.

Journalist Sophia Jones, who is reporting from Cairo for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, posted this image of a man shooting from across a bridge.

Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson said that these armed men are “provocateurs” who have joined the protest groups. But this wouldn’t be the only time video footage has shown men armed with guns shooting from the protesters side.

A video posted on YouTube by Egyptian Web site Youm 7 on Wednesday appeared to show supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood firing guns during clashes. In the video, a group of men gather on a street corner, while a man in a mask walks out and starts firing what looks like an AK-47. The man then returns to the corner as the sound of gunshots continues in the distance. A few seconds later, the video shows another group of men, carrying backpacks, shooting their guns from behind a tree.

PHOTO: Guarding the Tahrir entrance

Egyptian army soldiers take their positions on top and next to their armored vehicles while guarding an entrance to Tahrir Square to prevent protesters from gathering there.

Armored vehicles line up at the entrance to Tahrir square, in Cairo on Aug. 16, 2013. (AP)

Armored vehicles line up at the entrance to Tahrir square, in Cairo on Aug. 16, 2013. (AP)

Brotherhood calls supporters to 28 mosques

In an official statement released on its Web site, the Muslim Brotherhood has called on its supporters to gather at 28 different locations in Cairo, which will serve as the starting points for protests.

Our revolution is peaceful, and we will continue to mobilize people to take to the streets without resorting to violence and without vandalism. Violence is not our approach. Vandalism only aims at distorting the image of our peaceful revolt and finding justifications for the coup leaders to continue to govern.

The 28 mosques where the Brotherhood is asking its supporters to gather are:

1.     Suhaib alroumy – Sharabeya
2.     Altaqwa- Shubralkheima
3.     ALQuds- Almarg, Ain Shams st.
4.     Nour alMohamadeya- Matareyya sq.
5.     AlAziz Billah- Zaytoun
6.     AlSalam- 10th district Nasr City
7.     AlFath Alkhalafawy
8.     AlHamd- 5TH District
9.     AlMahdy- Madeenal al Salam, Al-Arba’een st.
10.   AlMaraghy- Helwan
11.   AlRayan-Maadi
12.   AbuBakr Alseddik- Darulsalam
13.   Amro Ibn El ‘As- Old Cairo
14.   AlNour- Abbaseya
15.   AlFath- Ramsis
16.   AlTawhid- Ghamra
17.   Alistiqama- Giza square
18.   Asad Ibn El Forat- Dokki
19.   Khatem alMorsaleen- AlOmraneya
20.   Khaled ibn al Walid- Kitkat
21.   Mostafa Mahmoud- Mohandeseen
22.   AlMaghfera- Mohandeseen
23.   Alsabah- Haram st.
24.   Mashary- Haram
25.   AlRahma- Haram
26.   AlTawhid- Alarish st. intersection with Faisal st.
27.   AlHusary- 6 October
28.   Ragheb- 6 October

The statement says all protesters will later head to Ramses Square, which is where some of the fiercest clashes are taking place Friday.

Egypt Foreign Ministry defends security action

The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs defends the military’s decision to storm the pro-Morsi sit-ins on Wednesday, saying, “the Government has no option or alternative but to assume its responsibilities, enforce the rule of law, keep citizens’ security, and maintain the civil peace by executing the decisions of the Public Prosecution in this regard.”

While it endeavored to clear Rabiaa El Adaweya and Al-Nahda sit-ins in a peaceful manner to avoid casualties among citizens of the homeland, the Egyptian Government expresses its deep sorrow and regret for today’s victims as the Egyptian blood is precious and must be preserved and not be shed.

While observing the external world’s concern on the latest developments in the country, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses its strong condemnation and denial of some statements of several foreign countries and bodies, which exceeded the mere expression of this concern and the hope to solve the current problem without bloodshed and extended to flagrant interference in the internal affairs of the country and adoption of false positions reflecting lack of knowledge of the facts of the current situation.

The ministry also says its condemns Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s remarks calling for intervention of the United Nations Security Council and the League of Arab States in Egypt’s internal affairs.

It also strongly condemns the remarks attributed to an official in Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in which he held the Egyptian authorities accountable for resorting to the security option, a statement contradicting the truth and the facts on the ground after the government has allowed for efforts and good offices by international parties, including Qatar, to convince the other party to the arbitration of the voice of reason and move away from violence and incitement to it.

Video: Military helicopter flying over protesters

A video posted by Egyptian news site Youm7 shows a military helicopter flying over what appears to be huge crowd chanting protests.

The Wall Street Journal’s Maria Abi-Habib says protesters were shouting “Traitors!” at the helicopter.

Earlier, Egyptian journalist Sharif Kouddous posted an image of a helicopter flying low over the protesters.

Map of today's events in Cairo

Here is a map of Cairo that shows some of the key places where there have been clashes between security forces and Muslim Brotherhood supporters on Friday.

(By The Washington Post)

(By The Washington Post)

'Ramses feels like a war zone'

Swedish journalist Carl Fridh Kleberg, who is reporting from Ramses Square, describes the scene as a war zone, and notes dozens of dead bodies being moved out of the al-Fatah mosque.

Egyptian news Web site Mada Masr says one of its reporters counted 45 corpses at the Taamin Sehi field hospital.

The Mada Masr journalist confirmed reports that gunfire is coming from helicopters flying over Ramses, where clashes continue as more than 20 marches headed there after Friday prayers and thousands of protesters have congregated. Violent confrontations have reached Galaa Street and continue in Azbakiya, where there were earlier reports of protesters attempting to attack the local police station.

Photo: Carrying an injured protester

Protesters who support ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi carry an injured demonstrator during clashes at Ramses Square in Cairo, Aug. 16, 2013. At least 17 people have been killed during new clashes that erupted on Friday, according to the latest report by the Associated Press.

Protesters who support ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi carry an injured demonstrator during clashes at Ramses Square in Cairo, Aug. 16, 2013. (Reuters)

Protesters who support ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi carry an injured demonstrator during clashes at Ramses Square in Cairo, Aug. 16, 2013. (Reuters)

Saudi king backs Egypt action against 'terrorism'

In a brief statement read by a television presenter, Saudi King Abdullah said that his country stands in full support of Egypt against terrorism and accused “outsiders” of trying to destabilize the country by intervening.

Ahmed Al Omran, who runs the Saudi blog Riyadh Bureau, tweeted the king’s statement:

Video: People flee bridge to escape gunfire

A video posted on YouTube shows a number of people climbing down the October 6 bridge in Cairo using a cable to avoid gunfire. (WARNING: Some readers may find this graphic)

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