Egypt veered sharply toward the looming specter of civil war on Friday, as the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood continued to call for resistance to the overthrow of Muhammad Morsi, who had been the elected head of state before the army deposed him on Wednesday.
On Thursday, the military had arrested the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, Muhammad Badie, at Marsa Matrouh and brought him by helicopter to Cairo. Apparently they were attempting to intimidate him into accepting Morsi’s overthrow and wanted him to call on his followers to go home and prepare for the upcoming elections. The officers released Badie Friday morning and allowed him to address the enormous crowd of Morsi supporters at the Rabia al-Adawiya Mosque.
If Badie did make any agreement with the military, he reneged on it when he mounted the dais. He called for the Muslim Brotherhood to go into resistance and to attempt to restore Morsi to power, saying people should stay in the streets and refuse to be shooed away.
For the military to remove Morsi was dangerous and unwise. But for the Brotherhood to attempt to bring Morsi back by street action is also dangerous and unwise.
As a result of Badie’s fiery and defiant speech, Muslim Brothers tried to invade the grounds of the Revolutionary Guards barracks where they thought Morsi was being held; local troops warned them off, but when they kept coming, they opened fire and killed three. Hundreds of thousands of pro-Morsi demonstrators remained in the square in front of the Rabi`a al-`Adawiya Mosque.
Other Muslim Brothers crossed 6th of October Bridge in Cairo and most went to the state television station at Maspero, where they demonstrated, then ultimately dispersed. A group of Muslim Brothers, when they got across the bridge, headed straight for Tahrir Square, allegedly attacking the anti-Morsi youth there. Some fundamentalists deployed firearms. The other youth responded with rock-throwing and then began shooting fireworks at the Brotherhood attackers. The soccer fanatics and other Tahrir militants pushed the Brotherhood back across the bridge. Ultimately the army closed the bridge, but many hours after it should have.
Some 12 of the 30 dead on Friday died in clashes in Alexandria, the country’s second-largest city, in the biggest demonstrations for two years. The Brotherhood maintained that they were fired on when they demonstrated in favor of Morsi there, and that the police took the side of the attackers, deploying tear gas against the right wing crowd.
In the Delta depot town of Damanhour, 25 were wounded in fighting between pro-Morsi and anti-Morsi factions.
In the Suez canal port of Ismailia, Morsi supporters attempted to storm the offices of the governor, but withdrew when troops began firing over their heads. I heard one report on Friday of 100 wounded in Ismailiya.
In Luxor, Egyptian troops and police used tear gas to stop pro-Morsi fundamentalists from invading the Coptic Bishopric.
In Tanta, a march in support of Morsi was launched from Salam Mosque and there was a demonstration at the town center.
In Bani Suef, pro-Morsi demonstrators tried to take over the barracks of the military police, while anti-Morsi forces staged a counter-rally.
Five Egyptian troops were killed in separate incidents in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. The city of El Arish is in open rebellion, and Alarabiya reported that rebels were flying the black al-Qaeda flag there.
It is difficult to know the size of the rallies or numbers of persons involved in the provincial clashes. Some reports speak of “hundreds” coming out, which local police should be able to deal with if they get out of hand. If enough pro-Morsi people do as Badie ordered and stay in the streets until Morsi is reinstated, Egypt will be in for a long summer of discontent.