Death Toll Climbs Past 50 in Egypt

by Nuzha Nuseibeh

As the death toll from Sunday's clashes in Egypt rose to 53, militants launched three attacks Monday, killing several soldiers and injuring dozens more, in an escalation of one of the bloodiest days since the Aug. 14 crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.

Sunday's violence marked one of the worst days since the military ousted President Mohammed Morsi in July. Crowds had gathered to mark the anniversary of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, but events quickly descended into chaos as fighting broke out between those who support the ousted President and security forces. The Muslim Brotherhood had forewarned of the escalating demonstrations, and Morsi supporters had last week staged their most ambitious protests since the August bloodshed. According to the Health Ministry, at least 271 were injured in the clashes.

"It is now crystal clear that the coup is a nightmare for Egypt and its people and is trying so hard to tear the fabric of this nation," said a statement from a coalition consisting of the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies. "At the time when festivities are arranged for one section of the population, they call on Egyptians to dance on the dead bodies of their compatriots who oppose the coup."

By Monday morning, security officials claimed to have regained "full control" of the country — most of those killed were pro-Morsi protestors. Roughly 423 Morsi supporters were detained across the country, according to the Interior Ministry, who head up the country's military-led rule.

"There are those who think the military can be broken," Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told crowds congregated in support of the military. "You see the Pyramids? The military is like the pyramids, because the Egyptian people are on its side."

Al-Sisi — who has recently been touted as a possible presidential candidate — said, in an interview conducted before Sunday's clashes, that the interests of Egypt were different from those of the Brotherhood, also adding that Morsi's time in office had propelled the country into a possible civil war.

"I told Morsi in February you failed and your project is finished," the Egyptian newspaper quoted Sisi as saying.

In a continuation of the bloodshed, militants launched three separate attacks early Monday. Two were killed and at least 50 injured when a car bomb went off in the capital of South Sinai, outside a security building, and five Egyptian soldiers were killed when gunmen attacked an army patrol in Ismailiya. In the capital, assailants fired grenades at communication satellite dishes, causing no casualties, but damaging equipment.

The last time protests resulted in such a high death toll was in August, when over 500 Muslim Brotherhood supporters were killed during a military crackdown on demonstrators. Since July, the interim government, along with the army, has made moves to strangle the Brotherhood, banning the group, freezing its assets, and placing many of its members under arrest — including the former President.