(Updates with death toll in second paragraph, comment from Saudi King starting in 10th.)
Aug. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Thousands of Egyptians poured into the streets after Friday prayers to protest this week’s deadly crackdown on Islamists, sparking clashes across the country.
Troops backed by tanks and helicopters surrounded Ramsis Square, a focal point of rallies in central Cairo. The Muslim Brotherhood, which called the protests, put the death toll at 60, while state-run Ahram Online said 27 people died, seven in the capital. Security forces and demonstrators also clashed in the provinces of Giza, Alexandria, Fayoum Ismailiya, Damietta, Port Said and Gharbiya.
The rallies were being held to protest the Aug. 14 killing of about 578 people when police stormed sit-ins by supporters of ousted President Mohamed Mursi and in the clashes that erupted across the country. The army, which removed Mursi from power and detained him last month, assumed responsibility for maintaining order as a state of emergency and curfews were declared after the raid. The government yesterday authorized security forces to use live ammunition to repel attacks on personnel or government buildings.
The assault on two squares in Cairo and Giza, where Brotherhood supporters were camped out to demand Mursi’s return, turned into the bloodiest day in Egypt’s recent history and drew worldwide condemnation. The authorities said the protesters were armed and threatened national security.
“The army did not play a direct role in the actions against the protest camps, but may now become more heavily involved as increasing numbers of anti-coup activists are resorting to using weapons,” Robert Powell, an analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, said in an e-mail.
Egypt’s benchmark Eurobonds slumped for a third day, pushing the yield up 16 basis points to 9.17 percent.
The Brotherhood said its protests would be peaceful, after a series of attacks on state offices yesterday. State television showed pictures of armed men it said were connected to the Brotherhood crossing a bridge over the Nile in Cairo and shooting at surrounding homes. Police later fired tear gas on the bridge.
“Our rejection of the regime and our attempts to remove it is an Islamic, national and moral duty that we cannot give up,” the Brotherhood said, according to Ahram Gate.
Security forces killed three “terrorists” today and wounded 60, repelling an attempt by members of the Muslim Brotherhood to storm a police station in the Suez canal city of Port Said, the Ministry of Interior said in an e-mailed statement.
Saudi King Abdullah said his country supports Egypt’s fight against “terror.”
“Anyone who interferes in Egypt’s internal affairs is instigating strife and sedition and supporting the terrorism they claim they are fighting,” he said in statement read out on Al Arabiya television.
President Barack Obama said he called off a joint military exercise with Egypt scheduled next month, and warned that Egypt’s military-backed government has embarked on a “dangerous path.” He stopped short of cutting off the $1.3 billion in aid that the U.S. provides to the Egyptian army, its decades-old ally.
The United Nations Security Council met to discuss the killings, and called for restraint. The French and German leaders called today for an end to violence in Egypt, and said European Union foreign ministers should meet to co-ordinate a response.
Violence flared up again yesterday after an overnight curfew in major cities that will be renewed every night for at least a month, according to officials. Mursi supporters attacked a government building in Giza, outside central Cairo, setting it on fire. Several soldiers and police officers have been killed in the Sinai in the past two days.
Dozens of churches were burned down or came under attack. Islamists have blamed Egypt’s Christian minority for supporting Mursi’s overthrow. The Brotherhood denied it was responsible.
--With assistance from Donna Abu-Nasr in Beirut, Margaret Talev in Washington and Emily Bowers in Accra. Editors: Karl Maier, Caroline Alexander