Curfew hits Cairo after military tanks quell anti-Morsi protests
Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood stand near tanks that were just deployed outside the Egyptian presidential palace in Cairo December 6, 2012. (Reuters/Asmaa Waguih)
December 6, 2012
Egyptian authorities have imposed a curfew in the country banning street protests after 3:00pm (13:00 GMT). Five of President Mohamed Morsi’s aides resigned after the military sent tanks and armored troop carriers to Cairo to quash the violence.
The protests, which flared up on Tuesday, continued on Thursday after another night of violence. Witnesses said that even after being separated by police and military cordons, supporters and opponents of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi continued to hurl stones and insults at each other in front of the Ittihadia presidential palace in Cairo.
Egypt’s Republican Guard has sent at least three tanks and two armored troop carriers to the area to restore order, Al-Arabiya reported. The presidential office ordered the hundreds of protesters remaining in the square to clean the area by 3:00pm (13:00 GMT). After that deadline a new curfew was re-imposed in the capital meaning an effective ban on demonstrations outside the palace. This comes less than six months after curfew was victoriously lifted to mark the end of Hosni Mubarak's rule.
Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters gathered outside Morsi's private residence in al-Zagazig, a town 47 miles (76 km) north-east of Cairo. Security forces there are now attempting to evacuate the president’s family, according to the Al-Mayadeen news TV channel.
In Cairo, six people have been killed in protests so far – including journalist Al Hosseini Abou Dief, who died from a shotgun wound – and over 350 were injured during the ongoing clashes between protesters and government forces, the state news agency MENA estimates.
The Egypt Independent newspaper claimed that two of the dead were a woman and teenager. Egypt’s Interior Ministry also reported that 32 people were arrested.
Supporters of Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Morsi (portrait) walk past Egyptian army tanks deployed near the presidential palace in Cairo after five demonstrators died overnight in clashes between supporters and opponents of Morsi on December 6, 2012. (AFP Photo/Mahmoud Khaled)
Three top officials have already resigned over the violence, including the chief of the constitutional committee, Zaghloul El-Balshi, who announced his resignation on Egyptian television on Wednesday night.
"I will not participate in a referendum that spilled Egyptian blood, I call on Morsi to cancel the constitutional declaration immediately," Ahram Online quoted El-Balshi as saying.
Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi build barricades as they clash with anti-Morsi demonstrators on the road leading to the Egyptian presidential palace on December 5, 2012.(AFP Photo/Gianluigi Guercia)
The volatile situation has also led to the resignation of five more of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s advisors, including Seif Abdel Fattah, Ayman Sayyad and Amr Leithy who quitted Wednesday over the violence. Mena news agency reported a further resignation on Thursday. Three others did so last week to protest Morsi's November decree.
The head of state television also quitted in protest, reports the independent newspaper Al-Masry al-Youm.
Egypt's top Islamic body, Al-Azhar, has called on the president to suspend his decree claiming broad powers. The institution also demanded an unconditional dialogue between the president and his opponents.
On Thursday, President Morsi held an urngent meeting with General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is the head of the military and defense minister, and other ministers in a bid to bring back order and stability to the country. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Hisham Qandil issued a brief statement calling for calm and a "national dialogue."
The recent protests engulfed Egypt after newly elected President Morsi signed a decree on November 22 granting his office vastly increased powers, which also stripped the judiciary of any chance to challenge his decisions. Protesters claim this is akin to the authoritarian rule of ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
On Tuesday, Morsi was forced to flee his presidential palace after roughly 200 protesters broke through barbed wire barriers and besieged the building. Police forces reportedly retreated, allowing demonstrators to move closer to the palace. At least 18 people were injured in clashes with police as the amount of demonstrators swelled to roughly 10,000 people.
Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi move barricades as they clash with anti-Morsi demonstrators on the road leading to the Egyptian presidential palace in Cairo on December 5, 2012.(AFP Photo/Mahmoud Khaled)
On Wednesday night, RT's Tom Barton described the scene around the presidential palace as "pandemonium" as Morsi opponents who had been staging a sit-in in front of the presidential palace fiercely clashed with Morsi's supporters.
Wednesday violence broke out shortly after President Morsi returned to his residence to resume his work.
Journalist Wael Eskandar told RT he was worried that the government would not be able to deal with the ongoing clashes. The anti-Morsi protesters were being chased away by Muslim Brotherhood supporters who were using rocks, Molotov cocktails and even "shotguns," Eskander said.
Watch RT's telephone interview with Wael Eskandar, an Egyptian journalist and blogger, who was caught in the Cairo clashes
Despite recent developments, Morsi and his office insisted that the planned constitutional referendum would proceed on December 15. Egyptian Vice President Mahmoud Mekky also said that "the door is open" to amend the disputed articles of the Constitution ahead of the referendum. This was reportedly turned down by the opposition groups who said that a dialogue is only possible if Morsi retracts his controversial decrees.
An injured Egyptian opposition protestor (C) runs as he is surrounded by members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi during clashes with anti-Morsi demonstrators on the road leading to the Egyptian presidential palace on December 5, 2012.(AFP Photo / Mahmoud Khaled)
During the clashes on Wednesday, Muslim Brotherhood supporters destroyed a tent camp erected by the opposition.
At the same time, anti-Morsi demonstrators set fire to and attacked a number of Muslim Brotherhood offices throughout the country, according to local media. Offices in Ismailia and Damietta, north of Cairo, as well as in Zagazig were attacked.
Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi carry an injured comrade during clashes with anti-Morsi protestors on the road leading to the Egyptian presidential palace on December 5, 2012.(AFP Photo/Mahmoud Khaled)
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