Egypt army kills at least 50 in Cairo clashes

By Sarah El Deeb

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, July 9 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

The sole Islamist faction that backed Morsi's removal, the ultraconservative Al-Nour Party, suspended its participation in talks on forming a new leadership for the country. The group is now torn by pressure from many in its base, furious over what they saw as a "massacre" against Islamists.

Reeling from scenes of bloodied protesters in hospitals and clinics, many with gaping wounds, some of Egypt's politicians tried to push new plans for some sort of reconciliation in the deeply polarized nation.

Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, the most prominent Sunni Muslim institution, demanded that a reconciliation panel with full powers immediately start work and that those detained in recent days be released. Five prominent Brotherhood figures have been jailed since Morsi's fall, and Morsi himself is held in detention in an unknown location.

El-Tayeb's announcement he was going into seclusion was a symbolic but dramatic stance — a figure seen as a moral compass by many Egyptians expressing his disgust with all sides in the events. Egypt's Coptic popes have at times gone into seclusion to protest acts against the Christian community, but the sheik of Al-Azhar has never done so.

Struggling whether to fully bolt from the new leadership, the ultraconservative Al-Nour Party denounced what it called incitement against fellow Islamists. Speaking to Al-Jazeera TV, the party's chief Younes Makhyoun raised the possibility of calling a referendum on Morsi as a compromise measure.

There were multiple calls for an independent investigation into the bloodshed as a way to establish the truth and move forward.

The military-backed interim president, Adly Mansour, ordered a judicial inquiry into the killings. Significantly, the statement from his office echoed the military's version of events, saying the killings followed an attempt to storm the Republican Guard's headquarters.

The new leadership announced a fast-track timetable that would lead to elections for a new parliament within about seven months.

Under the plan, two panels would be appointed to made amendments to the constitution passed under Morsi. Those changes would be put to a referendum within about 4½ months. Parliamentary elections would be held within two months, and once the new parliament convenes it would have a week to set a date for a presidential election.

The swift issuing of the plan reflected a drive to push ahead with a post-Morsi political plan despite Islamist rejection — and is certain to further outrage the Brotherhood.

Egypt's escalating crisis could further complicate its relations with Washington and other Western allies, which had supported Morsi as the country's first freely elected leader and now are reassessing policies toward the military-backed group that forced him out.

Still, the White House said Monday that cutting off the more than $1 billion in annual aid to Egypt was not in the U.S.'s best interests, though it was reviewing whether the military's moves constitute a coup — which would force such a measure under U.S. law.

But Egypt's new leadership appeared to be pushing ahead with the "road map" the military set up for the post-Morsi political system. Negotiations have been ongoing over appointing a prime minister, who will hold the main powers in governing the country. Talks have been stalled by Al-Nour Party vetos of candidates from liberal and secular factions — but if the party drops out, those factions may push through a candidate.

At the same time, the military was pushing hard to isolate Islamists from public support, depicting their protests as rife with gunmen and weapons.

Ali said the sit-in outside the Guard headquarters had "abandoned peacefulness." Ali also pointed to other incidents of Islamist violence, including coordinated, deadly attacks by extremists on military installations in the Sinai Peninsula.

Prosecutors in Cairo also ordered the closure of the Brotherhood party's headquarters amid investigations into a cache of weapons found there, according to the official Middle East News Agency.

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