As Egypt’s top leadership bickers about who will head the country’s interim government, thousands have gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to celebrate what they are calling the “Second Revolution” – the military’s ouster of President Mohamed Morsi last Wednesday. Amid the cheering is increasingly strident criticism of the United States and the Islamic Muslim Brotherhood that has rejected the idea of national reconciliation and insisted that Morsi must be reinstated.
It was the largest gathering of the week. Thousands of people, including families with their children, crowded into Tahrir Square one more time. This time, says dentist Dalia Ezzeldin, the crowds are celebrating the country’s second revolution – the military’s ouster of President Mohamed Morsi.
“I am here to encourage our army and our Egyptians and to support our revolution – it is not a coup. It’s a revolution. I am here just to prove it’s a revolution. It’s not a coup. And to say to all the world over – we have a revolution.”
The military deployed troops in the streets on fears of more violence. Earlier in the day, Muslim Brotherhood supporters also took to the streets, demanding that Morsi be returned to the presidency.
The military has arrested the top leadership of the Brotherhood, something Nagy Abdel Rasoul welcomes.
“They belong in jail. I hope you tell the world that this is a revolution. It’s not a military coup. It’s a revolution of a nation that has been tired for a full year, that is paying the price now, it was the biggest mistake in Egypt’s history that they elected the Muslim Brotherhood to power.”
And anger is growing at the apparent lack of support by U.S. President Barack Obama – who has said Washington does not back any particular Egyptian party of group.
“They are supporting their interests, their interest is with the Muslim Brotherhood, because of course they have certain agendas.”
Egypt’s military, which said it ousted Morsi in response to the will of the people, flew over the Square to the cheers of thousands, sending a clear message to those below as well as to Morsi supporters.
But as night fell on the Square, it was clear that the anti-Morsi protestors were not going to give up what they say they have won.
On Monday, July 8, shootings were reported in front of a military facility in Cairo that left dozens of people dead and dozens more wounded, according to an Egyptian health ministry official. Reports about who ignited the shoot-out are conflicting, with Muslim Brotherhood supporters accusing the army, and army officials insisting it was a “terrorist attack.”
Witnesses said the shootings began just before the end of dawn prayers Monday. The Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators and the Egyptian Army each accused the other side of starting the violence.
The Health Ministry said Monday at least 51 people were killed and hundreds more wounded in the early flare-up near Republican Guard headquarters. Military officials said one soldier was among the dead and several more were in critical condition.
Pro-Muslim Brotherhood doctors at a field clinic held a news conference in which they claimed the army had used excessive force. Clinic doctors said they treated more than 400 serious wounds, including 150 gunshot wounds.
Al-Jazeera television showed amateur video of a half dozen people it said were peaceful protesters shot by the army. Egyptian state TV also showed video of assailants pelting soldiers with stones and chunks of concrete as gunshots are heard in the background.
Muslim Brotherhood spokesmen called the shootings a “massacre,” while an army statement insisted a “terrorist attack” had taken place.
An injured Egyptian soldier, Mohamad Ibraheem described what he experienced.
He said he and other soldiers were there to ensure the safety of the people, but came under attack with gunfire, firebombs and bricks. He said many of his colleagues were hit.
It was not immediately possible to reconcile the conflicting accounts.
Egyptian interim President Adly Mansour was reported to have appointed a judicial committee to investigate Monday’s shootings. A presidential statement expressed “deep regret” for the violence, but went on to say the shootings took place during an attempt to storm Republican Guard headquarters.
Amid the accusations, Al-Arabiya TV showed a video of Islamist cleric Safwat Hijazi, who supports ousted President Mohamed Morsi, insisting that “all means” would be used to “free Mr. Morsi” from army custody.
During the February 2011 revolution which toppled veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak, Islamist militants freed Morsi and other top Muslim Brotherhood leaders from a Sinai prison, and attacked other Egyptian prisons as well.
As reports of Monday’s shootings spread, several Islamist groups announced they would not participate in an interim government that was being formed by Mansour. The Salafi Nour Party called for President Morsi to be reinstated, as did Islamist leader and former presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Foutouh.
A statement by the Muslim Brotherhood called for Egyptians to “rebel against those who stole their revolution from them.” Thousands of Brotherhood supporters continued to protest in front of Cairo’s Rouba Adawiya mosque as army troops watched from a distance.
Top opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei called for the “immediate formation” of an interim government, in the wake of the violence. ElBaradei had been the initial favorite to head that government, before meeting resistance from the Nour Party.