CAIRO — Egypt’s capital descended into chaos yesterday as vigilantes at neighborhood checkpoints battled Muslim Brotherhood-led protesters denouncing the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi and a deadly crackdown.
The fiercest street clashes the city has seen in more than two years of turmoil left more than 60 people dead, including several policemen.
The sight of residents firing at one another marked a dark turn in the conflict, as civilians armed with pistols and assault rifle clashed with protesters taking part in what the Muslim Brotherhood called a “Day of Rage,” ignited by anger at security forces for clearing two sit-in demonstrations Wednesday in clashes that killed more than 600 people.
Military helicopters circled overhead as residents furious with the Brotherhood protests pelted them with rocks and glass bottles. The two sides also fired on one another, sparking running street battles throughout the capital’s residential neighborhoods.
There was little hope that an evening curfew would curb the violence as the Muslim Brotherhood called on supporters of the country’s ousted Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, to stage daily protests.
Unlike in past clashes between protesters and police, residents and possibly police in civilian clothing battled those participating in the Brotherhood-led marches. There were few police in uniform to be seen as neighborhood watchdogs and pro-Morsi protesters fired at one another for hours on a bridge that crosses over Cairo’s Zamalek district, an upscale island neighborhood where many foreigners and ambassadors reside.
Across the country, at least 56 civilians were killed, along with eight police officers, security officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
The violence erupted shortly after midday weekly prayers when tens of thousands of Brotherhood supporters answered the group’s call to protest across Egypt in defiance of a military-imposed state of emergency following the bloodshed earlier this week.