Supporters and opponents of Egypt's ousted president have clashed again in Cairo. This comes after security forces delayed a plan to disperse Mohammed Morsi's supporters who have been staging sit-ins.
The clashes broke out as Morsi's supporters marched toward a building that houses the Interior Ministry in central Cairo. They and their opponents hurled rocks and bottles at one another and police fired volleys of tear gas to break up the battles. Women and children among the pro-Morsi faction fled the scene in panic.
The repeated clashes are symptomatic of a country still deeply divided six weeks after the army overthrew Morsi. Muslim Brotherhood camps at Cairo's al-Nahda Square and around Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque make up the heart of the resistance to the military and the civilian government it installed. Morsi supporters have stood their ground behind barricades, and Egypt's interim leaders have debated how to end their sit-in, not ruling out force.
Police had announced on Monday that they had postponed plans to move in with force, fearing violence after protesters reinforced the sit-ins at two major sites. Morsi's supporters had refused to abandon their protest camps despite warnings, with some brandishing sticks and iron bars and wearing helmets in anticipation of a crackdown. Meanwhile armored troop carriers along with squads of soldiers were positioned outside a nearby police station.
A security source said the delay was partially because demonstrators had flocked to the camps after reports of an imminent crackdown. Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said efforts were being made to resolve the situation through dialogue. The interior ministry had announced that gradual measures would be taken to regain control of the areas, warning that it might use water cannon and tear gas.
Steps from here
Late Tuesday afternoon, no police crackdown appeared imminent despite frequent warnings from the army-installed government that the protesters should pack up and leave peacefully.
Morsi took office in June 2012 as Egypt's first freely elected leader following the overthrow of long-ruling strongman Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising the previous year. However, he failed to get to grips with a deep economic malaise and worried many Egyptians with what they saw as efforts to tighten Islamist rule.
Since his July 3 ouster by the army, Morsi and other Muslim Brotherhood leaders have been in detention. More than 250 people have already died in political violence since Morsi's overthrow, including dozens of his supporters killed by security forces in two separate incidents.
The interim government installed by the army has planned for elections next spring. - mkg/pfd (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)