Egyptian soldiers shot at protesters who had gathered in support of deposed president Mohamed Morsi on Monday. Several dozen people died in the incident:
At least 40 people were killed and 300 people were injured in the shooting, according to a spokesman for the Ministry of Health. Mahmoud Zaqzooq, a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman, said 53 were shot dead, including five children.
The circumstances of the mass shooting were in dispute. Brotherhood officials and several witnesses said troops opened fire as the protesters were embarking upon a peaceful dawn prayer. But a military spokesman said an armed group from the pro-Morsi camp attacked troops around the headquarters, leading to one soldier’s death, and that the military responded with force afterward.
“Any law in the world allows soldiers to defend Egyptian security when confronted with live fire,” Armed Forces spokesman Ahmed Mohamed Ali said at a news conference. “We are no longer talking about peaceful protests.”
Protesters, however, said the military began shooting without provocation. They described a scene of confusion and chaos, as live gunfire, bird shot, and tear gas seemed to come from all sides.
“I don’t remember where we were facing, but the shooting came from everywhere,” said Abdel Rahman Mahmoud, a young subway cleaner, who sat on the concrete at the Brotherhood’s makeshift field hospital, both arms bandaged and sweat beading on his forehead.
Abdel Naguib Mahmoud, a lawyer from the Nile Delta town of Zagazig, said he and fellow protesters had knelt to the pavement for the second time, their backs to the Republican Guard palace, when he heard shouted warnings from the perimeter that security forces were encroaching.
“So we finished our prayer rapidly,” Mahmoud said. He heard the resounding boom of tear-gas being detonated, and the crackle of gunfire. Running toward the entrance of the sit-in area, he and several friends began to pick up the wounded. More shots rang out, and the men lay down on the pavement.
Mahmoud said he saw forces in military fatigues and police dressed in black. Moments later, an officer stood over him and kicked him, telling him to move, he said. When he ran, gunmen opened fire. He said he was hit in the back with birdshot, and lifted his shirt to reveal a scattering of small bloodied wounds.
The violence threatened to disrupt the country’s political process, with the Brotherhood’s political party calling for an uprising, and a conservative Islamist party withdrawing from negotiations over who will be the new prime minister. For the latest news from Egypt, continue reading here.
Unrest in Egypt continues as the country’s economy has been steadily declining:
In an interview last week, economist Caroline Freund explained that the country hasn’t been producing enough jobs for the fast-growing population. Youth unemployment had soared to around 25 percent — and that was before the 2011 revolution . . .
The situation only worsened after the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood took power last year. “There was the political uncertainty, the economic uncertainty, there was no policy predictability,” Freund said. “Investors lost confidence and decided to wait. Because of the security concerns, tourists stopped coming — that’s around 10 percent of Egypt’s GDP.”
Since the military coup that toppled the Morsi government last week, some economists have been cautiously optimistic. The country’s stock market soared by 7 percent on Thursday, shortly after the coup. The BBC quotes several analysts hoping that Egypt can now finally apply for a long-stalled loan from the IMF to shore up its finances and make structural reforms. . .
Freund noted that many of those economic reforms were likely to be painful and controversial — like scaling back Egypt’s fuel subsidies, which currently consume 8 percent of the country’s GDP. She argued that many of these moves would likely need to happen quickly: “What we found is that in revolutions and other political transitions, speed seems to be an important factor for success.” Otherwise, Egypt could keep jumping from crisis to crisis.
Morsi’s ouster was welcome news to investors, and a major victory for liberal and secular activists. Yet those groups still face obstacles in organization and planning:
It was unclear whether anti-Islamist forces have developed a strategy that extends beyond the vague “road map” outlined by the head of the armed forces, Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, as he announced Morsi’s dismissal Wednesday night. And for liberal activists and politicians who claim to champion democratic values, supporting the coup that ousted Egypt’s first democratically elected leader could present other challenges.
But if the Muslim Brotherhood’s seemingly fast demise has given liberals a fresh boost of confidence, their enthusiasm is rooted less in a clearly defined political strategy than in the conviction that the enemy has been defeated.
The last time around, political analysts say, the liberals botched an important opportunity.
They fractured from a powerful, unified force standing against Hosni Mubarak into dozens of groups and political parties. They floundered when it came to mobilizing voters. They lacked a single vision and a grass-roots strategy to compete with the far better organized Muslim Brotherhood, which had decades of experience opposing Mubarak and a vast, nationwide charity network.
This time, the liberals swear it will be different.
For past coverage of the crisis in Egypt, continue reading here.