But Saturday brought demonstrations and clashes in several other cities across the country. And the eerie silence from al-Fateh mosque as the evening curfew took effect signaled only that the military-led government remained determined to crush Egypt’s pro-Morsi protest movement.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which backs Morsi, and the Brotherhood-led Anti-Coup Alliance called for more protests — every day for the coming week — in the same central square where hundreds of pro-Morsi protesters were killed Friday. The group vowed that the protesters would perform their evening prayer there.
But the country’s military-backed government signaled Saturday that it is not backing down, either.
“This state and this people are now under attack,” said Mostafa Hegazy, an adviser to the interim president, Adly Mansour. Hegazy said the state would defeat the “terrorists” and would soon implement the political road map laid out by Egypt’s military after it wrested control from Morsi last month.
Under the government’s increasingly violent crackdown, the voices of Morsi’s supporters have gradually slipped offline and off their defiant protest stages. Much of the leadership of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which led two sprawling protest camps until they were cleared in a deadly assault Wednesday, is now in jail, missing or in hiding. Now, a host of young people, wives and other relatives of the missing Islamist leaders who once ran this country have become the spokesmen for a protest movement that is now swiftly losing power but is no less defiant.
On Saturday, the standoff at al-Fateh mosque erupted suddenly into a prolonged gunfight, the chaos and panic spilling into side streets and the wider neighborhood as security forces opened fire and shots were returned from the mosque’s minaret and windows. The protesters, including medical personnel and the wounded, had on Friday taken refuge in the mosque from gunfire outside in Ramses Square on a day of widespread violence that left at least 230 people dead nationwide.
The number of dead, which has steadily mounted since security forces raided the pro-Morsi protest camps Wednesday, has deepened fears of a slide toward full-blown civil conflict in this already deeply divided nation.
Egypt’s government said Friday’s death toll included 57 members of the police, and it said it was considering measures to outlaw the Muslim Brotherhood. The group was banned, and regularly repressed, under the regime of President Hosni Mubarak.
Government spokesman Sherif Shawky blamed the Brotherhood on Saturday for Egypt’s ongoing violence, calling the demonstrations “the furthest thing possible from peaceful.”