Egypt: Over 50 dead in Brotherhood-Army Clash; Baha-al-Din proposed PM; Thousands support Gov’t

Update: The death toll in the deadly incident outside the Republican Guards barracks in Cairo has risen to over 50, with 300 wounded. Firm details of how the clash began are still not available. The pro-Brotherhood press, such as Aljazeera, is calling it a premeditated military massacre of peaceful praying civilians. The Egyptian military maintains that its troops were attacked by an armed commando squad seeking to free deposed President Muhammad Morsi from the barracks, and defended themselves. Western reporters in Cairo are said to face restrictions in moving around because of the danger of being attacked (both sides in Egypt’s struggle blame the US and the West for supporting the other), and that difficulty may be impeding their ability to get solid eyewitness accounts of how it all began.

After a day of relatively peaceful demonstrations and progress in establishing a transitional government, Egypt was rocked in the early morning hours by the deaths of 15 or more persons, at least one of them a military officer and the others members of the Muslim Brotherhood, in clashes between the military and the Brotherhood near the Republican Guard HQ.

There were two narratives about what happened. The army maintained that armed individuals tried to raid the military barracks, where they think deposed President Muhammad Morsi is being held. In this telling, there was an attempted violent jailbreak by Morsi’s militant followers, which the troops fought off, returning fire. The army said that an officer was killed and 40 military men were wounded in the “terrorist attack.”

The other narrative, from the Muslim Brotherhood side, is that the Brothers were peacefully praying near the barracks, when suddenly Egyptian military troops fell on them and massacred them. (Some Brotherhood sources were claiming 40 dead and dozens wounded early Monday morning).

Both narratives are problematic. The army’s description of a “terrorist attack” sounds propagandistic. The Brotherhood account doesn’t indicate a motive for the army abruptly to launch an attack on peaceful demonstrators.

The Muslim religious Right is charging the government with an unprovoked massacre. Even the liberal Muslim politician, Abdel Moneim Aboul Futouh, a former presidential candidate who broke with the Muslim Brotherhood years ago, called on interim president Adly Mansour to step down over the incident.

The Salafi Nour Party (hard line fundamentalists), who had earlier been willing to entertain the idea of cooperating with the transitional government in the wake of the military coup/ popular uprising against Morsi, withdrew from the dialogue.

Nour had already been unhappy by Mansour’s proposed appointments on Sunday, of Ziad Baha-al-Din, head of the Social Democratic Party, as prime minister, and Mohamed Elbaradei a interim vice president. Nour considers Elbaradei too “secular,” and doesn’t want Baha-al-Din because he is prominent in a political party; they had wanted a non-party technocrat. But it already appeared that President Adly Mansour had made all the concesions to Nour he was going to, when he gave up a plan to appoint Elbaradei as prime minister. Mansour would have liked to keep the Salafis in his coalition if he could have, because then it looks like a joint Muslim, liberal and leftist alliance against Morsi’s authoritarian streak, rather than looking like a social democratic attempt at revolution.

Elsewhere in the country, thousands of protesters came out in the Upper Egyptian city of Luxor, site of the Pharaonic Valley of the Kings, in support of the army and of the deposing of Morsi. Morsi had angered Luxor by appointing as its governor a member of the al-Gama’a al-Islamiya, which had been a terrorist group in the 1990s (in 1997, Muslim radicals killed 77 tourists in Luxor). (MENA)

In another town in Upper Egypt, Qena, pro-Brotherhood crowds are said to have assembled (MENA).

There was also a huge crowd of left-liberal youth at Tahrir Square on Sunday, and the Muslim Brotherhood supporters were camped out in the square in front of the Rabia al-Adawiya Mosque in Nasr City.

An enormous crowd in Alexandria supported the military and the left-liberal youth on deposing Morsi. In dozens of marches throughout the city they expressed support of Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

31 Responses

  1. Juan, the army has a track record, especially during the SCAF period, of making dawn raids on protest encampments in an attempt to frighten people away, often with success. In several such cases they used civilian thugs in the front line so that they could blame them if something went wrong (while saying they didn’t know who they are). Several reports suggested this latest raid began with armed men on motorbikes. Who they were we may never know. Allah a3lam

  2. When it comes to keeping a country or area or region that’s up for grabs “destabilized,” is there a formula, like there is for “evaluating raw intelligence data,” for figuring out how many people you have to kill, one way or another, from which affinity group, to keep the pot on the boil or send the stew up in clouds of live, flesh-shredding steam? To reach that critical mass of tribal anger and vengeance that makes the peacemakers, even, “see red” and reach for weapons and start filling the conversational spaces that used to be occupied by “um” and “ah” and “Alma’derah” with “Allahu Akhbar!” and the air with hot rounds, and cue up the myriad little cellphone videos with little ululating clumps of “You see? You see what They are like?” people hauling another “martyr’s” body through the horde, blood drops turning to Dragon’s Teeth, or sawing the head off an “enemy” and cutting out his heart, Allahu Akhbar!, and eating it? (I’ll eschew the video link, but it’s there in “Syria Video.”)

    How much of this Curious Activity, Professor, is just about seizing the spoils of war, of the Ur-ians lining up to knock down the walls and empty the granaries of Nineveh, the Israelites putting everyone else to the sword and taking their stuff with a claim of G_D’s blessing, the Koch brothers or Egyptian military officers or the people Bill insists are just figments of juvenile imagination running the fading “legitimate organs of government and the monopoly on violence” for their personal profit, skating along the edge of complete dissolution of all bonds in an effort to maximize their personal benefits, knowing there are no consequences for the horrors accrued to others by their terminal parasitism and smug manipulations?

    Comity is a slow-growing plant, and its rhizomes and tendrils and modest blossoms and faint fragrance are easily shriveled, poisoned and detached…

    • Yes, JT, Egypt doesn’t actually have it own politics, so it’s best to assume that everything happening there is planned out of Langley.

      • That’s a serious misrepresentation of JT’s post, Joe. And if you don’t know that the US has had a strong hand in making Egypt’s current struggles–including in the making of global fundamentalism of several varieties (in the vacuum created by the collapse of the welfare state, for just one starter) then it’s your own critique that’s missing some fundamental variables.

      • “(both sides in Egypt’s struggle blame the US and the West for supporting the other)”

        That’s what I assume.
        Maybe the NSA is battling the CIA in a proxy war.

  3. Not good. Not good at all. Last body count is over 40. The Egyptian military acted according to my low expectations. Poorly led, poorly trained, they hardly resemble the professional force one would assume after being supplied & trained by the US so handsomely. This massacre – and that’s what it was – is a horror show. Where’s the international outrage? Outside of some per-forma tut-tutting, the sound of (relative) silence is astonishing.

    The Islamists are poison for Egypt and everything needs to be done to help the people who are not fanatics. But this bloodshed is exactly what the religious radicals want. Why do these stories end up so badly?

    • News flash: I’m always astonished at people who believe “the military,” any “military” including our own, is some unitary body of trained men (mostly) with a common discipline and fealty and organization dedicated to the survival and prosperity of the nation that nominally arms and feeds them. That’s NEVER been how it works, any more than “war” is a stand-up zero-sum game between Our Heroes and Those Baddies. And expecting or at least claiming as a visible and nominal policy goal that “training up an Army and national police force” is the way you “instill democracy” and “bring stability” to an area is so far off the mark as to be, what is it the Bobbsey Twins use for a pejorative, “ahistorical.”

      These events-in-context (not “stories,” please, that’s the Idiot MSM reduction we are way too comfortable with) end up badly, usually, because there’s too much bad in the best of us and way, way too little good in the worst of us to overcome the toxins that the predators and parasites instill in us and the loss of blood from their persistent drainings. And there’s personal profit and status to gain from sending “rough men” on motorcycles, armed with and firing the REAL Weapons of Mass Destruction, link to washingtonpost.com, into crowds full of people full of a hypergolic mixture of hope, fear, anger, remorse, revenge, yearning, prayer…

      How are US military types, who have brought us the School of the Americas, the invasion of countless countries, the idiocy of war-as-wealth-transfer-plus-body-count, all the sneaky-petery that paramilitary attachments and detachments undertake, supposed to create a nation-creating-and-sustaining “Army and national police” that will do anything other than what the average furriner (or our own Sheriff Bubbas and Militiamen) does in his daily life, only with better and more guns’n'ammo and a structure that a warlord or at a larger scale dictator can so easily co-opt?

  4. Dr. Cole, it is time to start offering solutions to this crisis. Describing what is happening is good and fine, but it is going to be increasingly difficult to assign blame and to know exactly who did what to whom, why, and when.

    Believe me, i have an experience with this. I tried to coverage the Algeria civil war, and after a while, i wasn’t sure anymore of who was killing whom because there were: fake islamists, fake terrorists, fake statements, fake soldiers, fake terrorist group, fake attacks, fake witnesses etc etc. I had at least 3 narratives for every attack (the government’s, the terrorist’s, and the eye witnesses) and all of them sounded correct. Relying on local coverage to get the story is also going to become increasingly difficult since the military will control the press/media and will impose their narratives on those institutions.

    I was there on the ground after the massacre of Beni-Messous (the official account was 89 casualties, but then you got to the village and count 100 and something funerals) close to Algiers, i am not sure at all that the terrorists did it. And if they did, there were helped by the military for several reasons.Until today, i have my suspicions backed by several eye witnesses.

    The fog of the civil war is going to get thicker and thicker, and implore you to start looking at the big picture here: Egypt, not the liberals or the military or the MB. Egypt is the big pictures here.

    So, let us start offering a way out: negotiations are the ONLY way out. All parties, including the MB, have to sit down and have to start negotiating. Yes, Morsi have to be released (because he has not committed any crime) to quiet the MB and get them to sit down. If Morsi is not released, the MB will keep on protesting. The longer the MB is out there (and they can out there for years), the closer Egypt inches toward total civil war, the closer the region inches toward great instability, the faster the democratic process dies.

    So, i am begging you to get out of the day-to-day who did what to whom (believe me, you won’t be able to keep track), and let us get into the business of offering solutions, putting pressure our government to bring all parties together and force them to make concessions and force a major compromise.

    There is no other way.

      • What Egyptians need now is the US telling them “You are destroying your country.” What they need now is someone, a friend to smack them on the back of their head and tell them “the window of opportunity is rapidly closing. So get in that room, sit down, and start talking to each other and making concessions.”

        The fog of war tromps and tramples any logic and any rational thinking. The parties get entrenched in their camps, polarization increases, and they start having tunnel visions. After a while, they get busy with the day to day operations, and they forget about the big picture. And that’s how the body count gets bigger and bigger everyday.

        Yes, Egyptians need someone to tell them to stop. They need someone to bring them to the table of negotiations, lock the door, and keep them inside until they arrive to a compromise.

    • You are correct that all sides need to come to a political solution. But that’s their responsibility, not Professor Cole’s. His job as a historian is to collect and report on the stories from as many viewpoints as realistically possible. He also does an amazing job of pointing out the context of the stories. I appreciate his efforts because the North American press hasn’t been covering the Egypt story in any great detail.

      • I don’t know Destin F., he’s done a lot more than point out context over the years. Let’s see what he thinks.

    • You speak wisdom. Making a blank statement like “Islamist are poison” only serve to inflame the current sad situation and compromise your partiality. All the political actors in Egypt are responsible for what is happening today and all need to clear the streets and sit together to work on a solution. Friends and family members are unfriending each other on Facebook and divisions are appearing all over the place. Egypt will be 10 times worst than Algeria, God forbid. Also, all parties need to reject the Army’s intervention. The army is never the answer, its a monster which nobody can control. Today, the army shot the Islamists, tomorrow it will shoot the liberals.

    • Mr. Tahar,

      I just want to point out that there is evidence that Morsi escaped prison (case of Wady el Natrun) and that the MB threatened the judge who found the evidence. They threatened his life, his family’s as well as his father.

      Also, Morsi and some high officials of the MB are involved in a case of communicating with external parties (تخابر مع جهات أجنبية) which is a high treason charge…
      I am not condoning the death of any Egyptians… but I am just stating facts about the criminal charges of Morsi and why there is a reason to hold him.

      In my humble opinion, I don’t care who started the shooting today, because at the end of the day, I don’t want any deaths of any Egyptian. However, let us note who started the talk of violence, death and threats of civil war. It was the MB and Morsi starting from the hate speech that resulted in the horrible death of 4 Shi’ites. Those who started this talk of blood and hatred are the one responsible of the deaths from all sides that occurred later… There is this Arabic saying that says ‘a word is stronger than a knife’ …

      You are talking about solutions and negotiations. Do you think for example the mothers of the kids who were thrown off the roof by Islamists would agree to negotiations?

      Another thing, this dogma of the secular, liberal and leftists in Egypt being against Islam, is nothing but a myth used to manipulate some. The truth about the majority of Egyptians in general (whether Christians or Muslims) is that they are religious and conservative by nature no matter their political affiliation. So even with their calls of separating religion and politics, it is not a call to remove religion from society and everyday life because religion is one of the foundations of Egyptian society…

      Again in my humble opinion, the only solution is this notion to be corrected and the separation of religion and politics to be made.

        • The prison is Wady el Natrun prison.
          There was a judge in Ismailia looking at a case of an escapee from the same prison. One evidence linked to another, and one case led to another, till he found out that Morsi among others escaped during the 25th of Jan revolution…
          As to the other crime, as i mentioned before it is that of contacting a foreign party (I am not sure about the translation but in Arabic it is تخابر مع جهات أجنبية)… especially with Hammas, it is a charge similar to espionage which is high treason…

      • So, what do you propose? Burn your country down? Start a civil war that lasts for decades? Turn your country into failed states with warlords roaming the country side? Is that what you want?

        That’s exactly what i am talking about when i said the fog of war is thick and we don’t know with great certitude who is doing what. You probably have never been in a civil war. I spent 8 months touring Algeria at the highest point of the civil war, and it is the ugliest and most destructive thing that a country can go through.

        There will be no winner or ticker tape parade. Only destruction and hatred for the foreseeable future. And a big loser: Egypt and everyone in Egypt. So, step back, take a breather, think about the big picture. Stop thinking about who did what to whom and how i can get back at him, thus perpetuating the cycle of violence. It’s not worth it.

    • Perhaps we can send over John McCain to tell them to cut the bullshit.

      It’s 2013, Tahar, and Egypt is a major regional power with a huge population. Even if the United States forcing the Egyptians to do something was a good idea, the world just doesn’t work that way anymore.

      Being a superpower ain’t what it used to be.

      • It’s an attitude I read a lot and don’t understand:

        1. The US/EU needs to stay out of internal situations in other countries.
        2. Where’s the US/EU to stop this horrid situation!?!?!
        3. Why did the US/EU come in and make this terrible situation?!?

        It’s a sad and slowly dying colonialism.

    • I don’t think there is any strategy to move out of this turmoil beyond the obvious: suppress violence and move towards new elections.

      The MB is demanding that Mursi be reinstated, nothing short of this will matter. So negotiations are pointless.

      The members of the MB will have to decide as individuals whether to return to politics, protest peacefully, or turn to violence.

    • why don’t you do what you suggest to Prof Cole, Tahar? If an American suggest a) at the moment, that by itself is reason enough for Egyptians to do b). Set up a blog, try to find out what really happened day by day, and tell us your your opinion. If there still are hours left to the day, make suggestions how to improve the situation you just analyzed before it changes again…

  5. Can we please stop calling Egyptian secularists “liberal”. There is nothing liberal about calling for a military coup to oust a democratically elected head of state. Also, 58 tourists and 4 Egyptians were killed in the attack in Luxor, not 77.

  6. It could have been a well-orchestrated attack by the MB to instigate a military response. If I was a MB strategist, I’d be planning tactics to provoke and weaken the strong public support for the army. I’m not saying that they would have hoped for the army to kill their own protestors, but they are conveniently using this incident for their own political gain.

    But who knows, maybe things just got out of hand and both sides shot at each other. Or maybe the army did fire upon innocent protestors at prayer time. Why would they do that when they know that the whole world is watching? The fact that it occurred at prayer time is what makes me suspect MB involvement in this incident.

  7. Mr Malak-
    I have written here before that MB’s philosophy is that ONLY an Islamic government can get Egypt and other Muslim countries out of the morass they are stuck in. Thus, having “secular” forces in power, either by themselves or in coalition with Islamic forces can not, by definition, help Egypt. I am convinced they really believe this and it is wise to remember this when analyzing the situation there. We must take their ideology seriously in order to understand their motiviations.

  8. Juan,

    The conceptual framework you employ to interpret current events in Egypt is, coming from a historian, surprisingly
    ahistorical, and therefor, in my opinion, less enlightening than it could be. I am familiar with the tortuous, conflict ridden evolution of church-state relations in Western Europe, since the late Medieval period,
    Framing, as you do, the current political turmoil in Egypt in terms of perhaps a ‘democratic’ military coup, liberals,
    leftists, theocrats, the secular left, etc. is surprisingly superficial. The real engine of the current conflict, in my opinion, is a one that is glossed over: namely, sharply divergent views, really incommensurable ones, of the place of Islam in the Egyptian state. The very notion of the separation of the sphere of politics from direct religious jurisdiction is anathema to many devout Middle Eastern Muslims. Until the ineffectual political organizational abilities of the protesters begin to even approach, let alone surpass, those of the socially well entrenched Muslim Brotherhood, they likely face defeat in any election that is free, fair, and honestly conducted -which despite official pretense to the contrary, I don’t believe is in the cards. Its relatively easy to demonstrate, its quite another to be effective in mobilizing a political group.

    What would the West be like, today, if the the Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment, and century long, bloody Religious Wars, 17th century “Scientific Revolution” had never occurred? Very different, I would argue. These historical changes not only subsequently shaped the parameters of serious thinking on Church-State issues, they promoted secularization. The articulation of the notion of a secular state was, in part, the fruit of some of the above mentioned terribly divisive conflicts.

    If the historical events, mentioned above, or analogues to them in non-Western nations, were necessary conditions, not merely accidental ones, for the flourishing of Western secular democracy, what are the prospects of secular democracy emerging and taking deep root in the present Muslim Middle East? Surely problematic.

    Conclusion: No doubt unwittingly, Egypt is approaching a precipice, with the possibility of civil war appearing increasingly less remote. Unlike Algeria, the far more populous Egypt doesn’t have oil revenue to finance a long term civil war campaign directed at the Muslim Brotherhood. Yet the army appears to have cast its lot with the protestors. The ideological divisions are so deep that the protestors have no truck with compromising with the Muslim Brotherhood. So deadlock, with no group capable of exercising legitimate authority and power to forge a political compromise, except the army. But this latter -remote?- possibility will rapidly dwindle, as the momentum of the fractious conflict increasingly becomes even more bitter and intense.

  9. I’m curious about your identification of Aljazeera as “pro-Brotherhood.” That’s certainly not been my perception based on the English-language reporting. Is there a big difference between the English and Arabic sides? Clearly they have been targeted by the military since the coup, but is that because they show a clear Brotherhood bias or simply because they are critical of the military?

  10. It seems that the coalition put together by General Al-Sisi is collapsing. Al-Nur was forced to leave the coalition by its base (deep divisions inside the Salafits movement), and now Hizb Masser Al-Kawiya–Party of Strong Egypt–left the coalition as of this morning.

    Who is left in it?

  11. Greetings from Cairo,

    MB protesters have weapons. Check out the July 6 MB protesters attack on Manial Island residence that refused them to march through their island to reach Tahrir Sq in Cairo.

    7 Manial residents died.

    link to youtube.com

    link to smh.com.au

  12. “The Salafi Nour Party (hard line fundamentalists), who had earlier been willing to entertain the idea of cooperating with the transitional government in the wake of the military coup/ popular uprising against Morsi, withdrew from the dialogue.”
    These absent minded fundamentalists just don’t get anything right, would the president and the vice president please explain to them the function of the fig leaf once and for all.

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