Things may be spiraling out of control in Egypt, where a clash between the army and Muslim Brotherhood supporters near the headquarters of Egypt’s Republican Guard (where deposed former President Mohamed Morsi is believed to be held) became a bloodbath:
Doctors at the morgue say 54 dead, mostly from bullets or asphyxiation.Forensic reports I saw were live ammunition shot through the back
— Bel Trew – بل ترو (@Beltrew) July 8, 2013
One or two of the dead seem to be security officers, the rest protesters. As you might expect, each side has its own explanation for what happened; the army contending that the Muslim Brotherhood attacked them in an attempt to free Morsi from his imprisonment and the Muslim Brotherhood contending that the army simply began firing into crowds of peaceful (praying, even) protesters engaged in a sit-in. Both narratives are probably exaggerations, but it’s difficult to know which one is closer to the truth. It is incredibly counter-productive to the army’s interests to engage in something like this, but the description from the New York Times makes it sound like the protesters were throwing rocks at well-armed security forces, which is not the kind of thing that people do unless they’re absolutely on the defensive. The army is saying that it was attacked by Molotov cocktail-wielding demonstrators, but the lopsided casualty account suggests that there must not have been a whole lot of Molotovs being thrown around, if any. Word is that the Nour Party, the one Salafist party that had agreed to continue participating in Egyptian government even after last week’s coup, is now pulling out of the process of forming a new government. This eliminates the last shred of religious support for the military’s plan for reinstalling civilian governance.
Protests both for and against the military coup are breaking out in various parts of upper (southern) Egypt. Omar Ashour at The Guardian (via Sullivan) is worried about civil war, and I’d say that’s an apt worry. What I’m having trouble with is figuring out how the sides will break down. Brotherhood versus the military, sure, but the Egyptian public has plenty of reason to reject both groups at this point, rather than take sides between them.
The Guardian is live-blogging the situation here.