No "sympathy wave" for Brotherhood supporters after Wednesday’s killings

Egypt stood on a knife-edge after the Muslim Brotherhood, overtaken by grief, anger and a perceived threat to its political survival, following a bloody crackdown on Wednesday, clashed with the security forces during mass demonstrations that began after Friday prayers.

The shadow of violence was not far away as protesters supporting deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy headed towards Cairo’s Ramses square, a prominent junction not far from the more celebrated Tahrir square.

Reports of casualties mounted thick and fast within hours. According to security officials, 50 people were killed in Cairo alone. At least four had earlier died in during clashes in the industrial city of Ismailia. Pro-Morsy crowds had also hit the streets in Alexandria — Egypt’s second largest city.

Earlier, television pictures showed a dense crowd of protesters marching from the direction of Nasr city, where security forces on Wednesday had stormed an elaborate pro-Morsy encampment, leading to a mind-numbing bloodbath. Crowds, heading towards Ramses square were also pouring in from Giza, where another pro-Morsy sit-in had been violently broken up two days ago.

The country was already on edge after the military-backed government threatened to respond with live fire if protesters attacked government establishments. The stark warning followed the torching of a government building on Thursday in Giza, by Mr. Morsy’s supporters.

Pro-Morsy activists have also systematically targeted Coptic Churches, in an apparent retaliation to the support rendered by leadership of the Coptic Christians for the July 3 takeover by the military. The website of the state-run daily Al Ahram reported that Brotherhood supporters have since Wednesday launched a nationwide attack — torching 36 churches and attacking homes and businesses run by the Christians.

The combustible mix of anger and sorrow among the Brotherhood ranks has been building up as more details about the Wednesday’s carnage have begun to emerge. The Health Ministry is now stating that 638 people were killed in Cairo.

But the numbers could be much higher as the ministry records only those corpses that have been routed through hospitals.

The Muslim Brotherhood claims that more than 2000 had died in the crackdowns — accusing the authorities of fudging the death toll by handing over bodies only if the relatives accepted suicide as the cause of the death.

Despite Wednesday’s bloodbath, the anti-Morsy phalanx of support has not been breached. Neither have the horrific killings generated a “sympathy wave” among the Egyptian masses, which the Brotherhood supporters might have hoped for.

The Tamarod (Rebel) campaign, which played a seminal role in galvanising massive anti-Morsy demonstrations before the Mr. Morsy’s fall, has issued a boycott call of all shops, companies, factories and supermarkets that are owned by the Brotherhood. Anti-American sentiments already rife in the pro-military camp, have been accentuated by the Obama administration’s condemnation of the Egyptian government’s muscular approach in breaking up the sit-ins.

“The [Egyptian] presidency appreciates U.S. concern for developments in Egypt, but it wished it could have clarified matters,” said a statement published by the official MENA news agency. The statement observed that Washington’s assertions were “not based on facts,” and warned that these “may encourage violent armed groups”.

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