5 Dead in Alexandria Clashes as Egypt Court Orders Morsi Held over Hamas Ties
Five people were killed in clashes Friday between supporters of Egypt's military and deposed president Mohammed Morsi's loyalists in Alexandria, state media reported.
Police have intervened to break up the clashes in the Mediterranean city, in which at least 72 people were injured, many with gunshot wounds, the reports said.
Thousands of the ousted leader's opponents and supporters stormed the streets in Egypt hours after an Egyptian court Friday ordered the detention of Morsi for questioning over alleged ties with Palestinian militants in prison breaks and attacks on police, state media reported Friday.
The official MENA news agency said the detention was ordered for a renewable 15-day period.
Normally, such detentions are served in prison. But authorities have not yet confirmed whether Morsi, who has been held by the military since it pushed him aside on July 3, will be moved to a specific jail.
The announcement came as Morsi's supporters and his army-backed opponents prepared for rival rallies on Friday amid fears of a fresh outbreak of the violence that has convulsed Egypt since his overthrow.
Morsi will be quizzed on whether he collaborated with Gaza's Hamas movement in attacks on police stations and prison breaks in early 2011, in which the Islamist and other political inmates escaped during the revolt against strongman Hosni Mubarak.
Following Morsi's ouster, a senior military official had told Agence France Presse the Islamist leader was held by the army and might face charges by prosecutors over these allegations.
The alleged crimes are being investigated by a Cairo court that was tasked to determine how inmates broke out of a prison late January 2011, after accusations Morsi's Islamist group sought the help of the Hamas rulers of Gaza.
The court issued a gag order this week on proceedings in the case.
The military has avoided publicly identifying where it is holding Morsi, for fear of attracting protests by his loyalists.
Gehad El-Haddad, a spokesman for Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood denounced the detention order, saying Mubarak's regime was "signalling 'we're back in full force.'"
Hamas, too, denounced the detention.
"Hamas condemns this move since it is based on the premise that the Hamas movement is hostile," spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP in Gaza.
"This is a dangerous development, which confirms that the current powers in Egypt are giving up on national causes and even using these issues to deal with other parties -- first among them the Palestinian cause."
On June 23, an Egyptian court had said Hamas militants facilitated the escape of prisoners during the tumultuous 18-day uprising that forced out Mubarak.
At the time, Morsi, then a senior Brotherhood leader, told a television station Egyptians had helped the prisoners escape.
Meanwhile, on the ground, thousands of Morsi supporters flocked to join a mass rally at a Cairo square on Friday, as Egypt braced for a tense day of rival political protests.
Clashes broke out between supporters and opponents of Morsi in the Cairo neighborhood of Shubra, witnesses told AFP.
The clashes erupted early in the afternoon, the witnesses said. Live footage on satellite station ONTV showed crowds throwing rocks at each other in the neighborhood.
Buses and cars shuttled Morsi's backers to Rabaa al-Adawiya square, center of demonstrations in support of the Islamist leader since his overthrow on July 3.
"I am here to support the real president of Egypt, we are going to protest here peacefully," El-Baz Abu Maati, who had just arrived from the Nile Delta city of Mansura, told AFP, as hundreds of Morsi supporters streamed past him, making their way calmly to the square.
Guards at the entrance to the protest camp patted people down and searched bags for weapons as the crowds arrived, checking ID cards.
Nearby, men wearing hard hats and carrying makeshift clubs watched over the new arrivals anxiously.
Thousands were already massed in the square itself, where the mood was mostly subdued as Morsi's supporters waited in the scorching heat for the rally to begin.
Some stole a few moments sleep before the rally, while others read from the Koran.
The fugitive leader of Muslim Brotherhood Mohamed Badie on Thursday urged Egyptians to rally "against the bloody coup" that ousted Morsi, but to do so peacefully.
Badie's call came after army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had earlier called for rallies on Friday to give him a mandate to fight "terrorism and violence".
Many at Rabaa al-Adawiya square repeated that they wanted to protest peacefully.
"We are not afraid of the army, and we have the legal right to do anything," said Magdy Ahmed, who had come from Minya.
"We are peaceful," he stressed, patting himself down to show he was carrying nothing other than the prayer mat he had brought to sit on.
However, Abbas al-Ibrahim was adamant he would defend himself against any attack on the peaceful demonstration.
"We will kill everyone who kills our freedom," he shouted.
"We voted for this president ... now we will die in this place to secure his return," he added.
Political unrest across Egypt has killed nearly 200 people since the massive protests on June 30 that led to Morsi's overthrow.
Both sides have traded accusations that they have been attacked by the other.
Past the entrance to the square, vendors were doing a brisk trade selling Morsi masks, badges and posters, one of which read "Friday of victory - victory is close".
A small group crowded around a battered truck loaded with speakers playing "Hold your head high, you're Egyptian," a song urging unity between all Egyptians.
The group danced and waved Egyptian flags as they sang, while men carrying tanks of water on their backs sprayed crowds to cool them down.
Others arriving in the square chanted "Islamic, Islamic" as they headed to the main stage in the square. One of the group held a copy of the Koran above his head, chanting: "We have no weapons other than this".
Ahmed Helmy, 50, a university professor, had come to voice his outrage at the military-backed overthrow of Morsi, travelling from the central province of Asiut at four in the morning.
"We have been waiting for more than 60 years for the first civilian, elected president since the military coup of 1952," he said.
Student Omar Abou El-Khair, 19, from the United States, had travelled from Mansura, where he was visiting his family during his university holidays.
"What Sisi did was a military coup, it was nothing like the first revolution," he said.
"I come to Egypt every two years because I care about this country, and what goes on here. That's why I'm spending my vacation here instead of chilling on a beach somewhere".