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   CAIRO (AP) - Egypt's state TV says the judge in the trial of the country's deposed Islamist president and 14 others has adjourned the hearing soon after it started because the defendants' chants were disrupting the proceedings.

   The adjournment - likely to last till later on Monday - came after a two-hours delay in the start of the proceedings.

   Security officials inside the courtroom says the delay was caused by Mohammed Morsi's insistence not to change into the prison uniform customarily worn by defendants, part of his refusal to recognize the trial's legitimacy.

   The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

   Morsi and the others are charged with inciting murder and could face the death penalty if convicted.

   

Published in National News

   CAIRO (AP) — Egypt is bracing for more violence after the Muslim Brotherhood called for nationwide marches after Friday prayers and a "day of rage" to denounce this week's unprecedented bloodshed in the security forces' assault on the supporters of the country's ousted Islamist president that left more than 600 dead.

   The government has authorized the use of deadly force against protesters targeting police and state institutions while the international community has urged both sides to show restraint and end the turmoil engulfing the nation.

   At least 638 people were confirmed killed and nearly 4,000 wounded in Wednesday's violence, sparked when riot police backed by armored vehicles, snipers and bulldozers smashed the two sit-ins in Cairo where ousted President Mohammed Morsi's supporters had been camped out for six weeks to demand his reinstatement.

   It was the deadliest day by far since the 2011 popular uprising that overthrew autocratic ruler Hosni Mubarak and plunged the country into more than two years of instability.

   The Health Ministry said that 288 of those killed were in the largest protest camp in Cairo's Nasr City district, while 90 others were slain in a smaller encampment in Giza, near Cairo University. Others died in clashes that broke out between Morsi's supporters and security forces or anti-Morsi protesters elsewhere in the Egyptian capital and other cities.

   Violence spread on Thursday, with government buildings set afire, policemen gunned down and scores of Christian churches attacked. An angry crowd stormed the governor's office in Giza, the city next to Cairo that is home to the pyramids. State TV blamed Morsi's supporters for the arson and broadcast footage showing firefighters evacuating employees from the larger building of Giza's government offices.

   As turmoil spread, the Interior Ministry authorized the use of deadly force against protesters targeting police and state institutions. Egypt's military-backed government also pledged to confront "terrorist actions and sabotage" allegedly carried out by Muslim Brotherhood members.

   The Brotherhood, trying to regroup after the assault on its encampments and the arrest of many of its leaders, called for a mass rally Friday in a challenge to the government's declaration of a monthlong state of emergency and a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

   Also Thursday, the U.N. Security Council urged both the Egyptian government and the Muslim Brotherhood to exercise "maximum restraint" and work toward national reconciliation.

   In Cairo, weeping relatives filled the mosque-turned-morgue near the gutted pro-Morsi protest camp in Nasr City, spilled into the courtyard and the streets. Inside, the names of the dead were scribbled on white sheets covering the bodies, some of them charred, and a list with 265 names was plastered on the wall. Heat made the stench from the corpses almost unbearable as the ice brought in to chill the bodies melted and household fans offered little relief.

   Many people complained that authorities were preventing them from obtaining permits to bury their dead, although the Muslim Brotherhood announced that several funerals had been held Thursday.

   A woman cradled the head of a slain man in her lap, fanning it with a paper fan. Nearby, an anguished man shouted, "God take revenge on you el-Sissi!" a reference to the powerful military chief, Gen. Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi.

   Slumped over the body of his brother, Ihab el-Sayyed said the 24-year-old was getting ready for his wedding next week. "Last time I heard his voice was an hour or two before I heard of his death," he said, choking back tears.

   Elsewhere on Thursday, a mass funeral was held in Cairo for some of the 43 security troops authorities said were killed in Wednesday's clashes. Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim, who is in charge of the police, led the mourners. A police band played solemn music as fire engines bore the coffins draped in white, red and black Egyptian flags in a funeral procession.

   Wednesday's deadly crackdown drew widespread condemnation from the Muslim world and the West.

   President Barack Obama canceled joint U.S.-Egypt military exercises scheduled for next month, although he gave no indication that the U.S. planned to cut off its $1.3 billion in annual military aid to the country. The U.S. administration has avoided declaring Morsi's ouster a coup, which would force it to suspend the military aid.

   "While we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back," Obama said, speaking from his weeklong vacation in Massachusetts.

   Egypt's interim government issued a late night statement saying the country is facing "terrorist actions targeting government and vital institutions" by "violent militant groups." The statement expressed "sadness" for the killings of Egyptians and pledged to work on restoring law and order.

   The statement also warned that Obama's position "while it's not based on facts can empower the violent militant groups and encourage them in its anti-stability discourse."

   The biennial Bright Star maneuvers, long a centerpiece of the deep ties between the U.S. and Egyptian militaries, have not been held since 2009, as Egypt grappled with the fallout from the revolution that ousted Mubarak. Morsi, a member of the Brotherhood, was elected president in 2012 during Egypt's first democratic elections.

   Attackers also set fire to churches and police stations across the country for a second day Thursday.

   In the country's second-largest city of Alexandria, Islamist protesters exchanged gunfire with an anti-Morsi rally, leaving scores injured, witnesses and security officials said. Attempts to storm police stations in the southern city of Assiut and northern Sinai city of el-Arish left at least six policemen dead and others injured.

   Ishaq Ibrahim of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights said his group had documented at least 39 cases of violence against churches, monasteries, Coptic schools and shops in different parts of the country on Wednesday.

   Fearful of more violence Friday, some main streets were closed and people in many neighborhoods set up cement blocks and metal barricades. Residents checked IDs in scenes reminiscent of the 2011 revolution when vigilante-style groups set up neighborhood watches to prevent looting and other attacks.

   The turmoil is the latest chapter in a bitter standoff between Morsi's supporters and the interim leadership that took over the Arab world's most populous country following a July 3 coup. The military ouster came after millions of Egyptians took to the streets to demand Morsi step down, accusing him of giving the Brotherhood undue influence and failing to implement vital reforms or bolster the ailing economy.

   Morsi has been held at an undisclosed location ever since. Other Brotherhood leaders, including several arrested Wednesday, have been charged with inciting violence or conspiring in the killing of protesters.

   The Brotherhood has spent most of its 85 years as an outlawed group or enduring crackdowns by successive governments. The latest developments could prompt the authorities to once again declare it an illegal group and force it to go underground.

Published in National News

   CAIRO (AP) — Egypt faced a new phase of uncertainty on Thursday after the bloodiest day since its Arab Spring began.

   The Egyptian Health Ministry says the death toll in clashes between police and supporters of the country's ousted president has risen to more than 400.

    The clashes began when police moved to clear two sit-in camps in Cairo by supporters of Mohammed Morsi, ousted in a military coup on July 3. 

   Wednesday's raids touched off day-long street violence that prompted the military-backed interim leaders to impose a state of emergency and curfew, and drew widespread condemnation from the Muslim world and the West, including the United States.

   Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei resigned as Egypt's interim vice president in protest — a blow to the new leadership's credibility with the pro-reform movement.

   Interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi said in a televised address to the nation that it was a "difficult day" and that he regretted the bloodshed but offered no apologies for moving against the supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, saying they were given ample warnings to leave and he had tried foreign mediation efforts.

   The leaders of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood called it a "massacre." Several of them were detained as police swept through the two sit-in sites, scores of other Islamists were taken into custody, and the future of the once-banned movement was uncertain.

   Backed by helicopters, police fired tear gas and used armored bulldozers to plow into the barricades at the two protest camps in different sections of Cairo where the Morsi supporters had been camped since before he was ousted by the military July 3.

   The smaller camp — near Cairo University in Giza — was cleared of protesters relatively quickly, but it took about 12 hours for police to take control of the main sit-in site near the Rabaah al-Adawiya Mosque in Nasr City that has served as the epicenter of the pro-Morsi campaign and had drawn chanting throngs of men, women and children only days earlier.

   After the police moved on the camps, street battles broke out in Cairo and other cities across Egypt. Government buildings and police stations were attacked, roads were blocked, and Christian churches were torched, Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim said.

   At one point, protesters trapped a police Humvee on an overpass near the Nasr City camp and pushed it off, according to images posted on social networking sites that showed an injured policeman on the ground below, near a pool of blood and the overturned vehicle.

   The Health Ministry said 235 civilians were killed and more than 2,000 injured, while Ibrahim said 43 policemen died in the violence. The death toll was expected to rise.

   Three journalists were among the dead: Mick Deane, 61, a cameraman for British broadcaster Sky News; Habiba Ahmed Abd Elaziz, 26, a reporter for the Gulf News, a state-backed newspaper in the United Arab Emirates; and Ahmed Abdel Gawad, who wrote for Egypt's state-run newspaper Al Akhbar. Deane and Elaziz were shot to death, their employers said, while the Egyptian Press Syndicate, a journalists' union, said it had no information on how Gawad was killed.

   For much of the afternoon, thousands of Morsi supporters chanting "God is great!" tried to join those besieged by the security forces inside the Nasr City camp. They were driven away when police fired tear gas.

   Smoke clogged the sky above Cairo and fires smoldered on the streets, which were lined with charred poles and tarps after several tents were burned.

   The Great Pyramids just west of Cairo were closed to visitors for the day together with the Egyptian Museum in the heart of the city. The central bank instructed commercial banks to close branches in areas affected by the chaos.

   "Egypt has never witnessed such genocide," Brotherhood spokesman Ahmed Aref told The Associated Press from the larger of the two protest camps before it was cleared.

   The pro-Morsi Anti-Coup Alliance alleged security forces used live ammunition, but the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of the police, said its forces only used tear gas and that they came under fire from the camp.

   Security officials said train services between northern and southern Egypt were suspended to prevent Morsi supporters from traveling to Cairo. Clashes erupted on two roads in the capital's upscale Mohandiseen district when Morsi supporters opened fire on passing cars and pedestrians. Police used tear gas to chase them away.

   The security officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media.

   The government declared a monthlong nationwide state of emergency and imposed a nighttime curfew on Cairo, Alexandria on the Mediterranean and 12 other provinces where violence broke out following the simultaneous raids.

   It also ordered the armed forces to support the police in restoring law and order and protect state facilities. Egypt was under emergency law for most of Mubarak's 29 years in power.

   Despite the curfew, sporadic clashes continued in Cairo through the evening.

   In the city of Assiut, south of Cairo, a police station was hit by two mortar shells Wednesday night fired by suspected Morsi supporters, according to officers there who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

   Anger over Morsi's ouster already has led to an increase in Islamic militant violence in the northern half of the Sinai Peninsula that borders Israel and Gaza, and many fear growing anger over the crackdown and deaths of civilians could be exploited by extremists.

   The turmoil was the latest chapter in a bitter standoff between Morsi's supporters and the interim leadership that took over the Arab world's most populous country. The military ousted Morsi after millions of Egyptians massed in the streets at the end of June to call for him to step down, accusing him of giving the Brotherhood undue influence and failing to implement vital reforms or bolster the ailing economy.

   Several senior leaders of the Brotherhood who were wanted by police were detained after the camps were stormed, according to security officials and state television. Among those seized were Brotherhood leaders Mohammed el-Beltagy and Essam el-Erian, and hard-line cleric Safwat Hegazy — all wanted by prosecutors to answer allegations of inciting violence and conspiring to kill anti-Morsi protesters.

   Morsi himself has been held at an undisclosed location. Other Brotherhood leaders have been charged with inciting violence or conspiring in the killing of protesters.

   A security official said 200 protesters were arrested at both camps. Several men could be seen walking with their hands up as they were led away by black-clad police.

   The Muslim Brotherhood's political arm claimed that more than 500 protesters were killed and some 9,000 wounded in the two camps, but those figures could not be confirmed and nothing in the video from AP or local TV networks suggested such a high death toll.

   The Brotherhood has spent most of the 85 years since its creation as an outlawed group or enduring crackdowns by successive governments. The latest developments could provide authorities with the grounds to once again declare it an illegal group and consign it to the political wilderness.

   In his televised address, el-Beblawi said the government could not indefinitely tolerate a challenge to authority that the 6-week-old protests represented.

   "We want to see a civilian state in Egypt, not a military state and not a religious state," he said.

   But the resignation of ElBaradei, the former head of the U.N. nuclear agency and a figure widely respected by Western governments, was the first crack to emerge in the government as a result of the violence.

   ElBaradei had made it clear in recent weeks that he was against the use of force to end the protests. At least 250 people have died in previous clashes since the coup that ousted Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president.

   On Wednesday, his letter of resignation to interim President Adly Mansour carried an ominous message to a nation already torn by more than two years of turmoil.

   "It has become difficult for me to continue to take responsibility for decisions I disapprove of, and I fear their consequences," he said in the letter that was emailed to The Associated Press. "I cannot take responsibility before God, my conscience and country for a single drop of blood, especially because I know it was possible to spare it.

   The National Salvation front, the main opposition grouping that he headed during Morsi's year in office, said it regretted his departure and complained that it was not consulted beforehand. Tamarod, the youth group behind the mass anti-Morsi protests that preceded the coup, said ElBaradei was dodging his responsibility at a time when his services were needed.

   Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb, the powerful head of Al-Azhar mosque, Sunni Islam's main seat of learning, also sought to distance himself from the violence. He said in a statement he had no prior knowledge of the action.

   U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the violence had dealt a "serious blow" to Egypt's political reconciliation efforts, and gave a stern warning to Egypt's leaders.

   "This is a pivotal moment for all Egyptians," said Kerry, who spoke by phone with the foreign minister. "The path toward violence leads only to greater instability, economic disaster and suffering."

   U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged all Egyptians to focus on reconciliation, while European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said dialogue should be encouraged through "peaceful protest, protecting all citizens and enabling full political participation."

Published in National News
Wednesday, 14 August 2013 00:30

Egyptian troops move against pro-Morsi sit-in

   CAIRO (AP) - Egyptian state TV says security forces are moving to clear two sit-in camps in support of the country's ousted President Mohammed Morsi.

   Security officials say forces are firing tear gas into the larger of the two protest locations in Cairo, the encampment in the eastern Nasr City neighborhood.

   At the smaller protest site outside the Cairo University campus is Giza, armored carriers were securing the area on Wednesday.

   The pan-Arab Al-Arabiya TV is showing images of clouds of smoke from the tear gas, collapsed tents and tires burning at the Nasr City protest site. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

   At least 250 people have died in clashes in Egypt following Morsi's July 3 ouster in a military coup.

   

Published in National News

   CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's official news agency reports that the state prosecutor has ordered the detention of the ousted president over alleged contacts with Hamas to help in his escape from prison in 2011.

   The MENA news agency said Mohammed Morsi has been detained for 15 days for investigation into the charges.

   Egypt's military has been holding Morsi in an undisclosed location since deposing him on July 3.

Published in National News

CAIRO (AP) — Thousands of Egyptians demanding the ouster of Egypt's Islamist president are gathering at Cairo's central Tahrir Square at the start of a day of massive, nationwide protests many fear could turn deadly.

Sunday marks the first anniversary of President's Mohammed Morsi's assumption of power as Egypt's first freely elected leader.

Thousands of Morsi's supporters have staged a sit-in since Friday in an eastern Cairo district not far from the presidential palace, the focus of protests later on Sunday to demand his ouster.

The youth group leading the campaign to force Morsi out said it had collected more than 22 million signatures from Egyptians who want the president to go. It was not possible to verify the claim.

Morsi's supporters have questioned the authenticity and validity of the signatures.

Published in National News

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