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At least 51 killed as protesters, soldiers clash in Egypt

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt was rocked Monday by the deadliest day since its Islamist president was toppled by the military, with more than 50 of his supporters killed by security forces as the country’s top Muslim cleric raised the specter of civil war.
The military found itself on the defensive after the bloodshed, but the interim president drove ahead with the army’s political plan. He issued a swift timetable for the process of amending the Islamist-backed constitution and set parliamentary and presidential elections for early 2014.
The killings further entrenched the battle lines between supporters and opponents of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, who was removed by the military July 3 after a year in office following mass demonstrations by millions of Egyptians.
Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood called for an uprising, accusing troops of gunning down protesters, while the military blamed armed Islamists for provoking its forces.
The shootings began during a protest by about 1,000 Islamists outside the Republican Guard headquarters where Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected leader, was detained last week. Demonstrators and members of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood said troops descended on them and opened fire unprovoked as they finished dawn prayers.
“I was in the last row praying. They were firing from the left and right,” said Nashat Mohammed, who had come from southern Egypt to join the sit-in and was wounded in the knee. “We said, ‘Stop, we’re your brothers.’ They shot at us from every direction.”
After a battle lasting about three hours, at least 51 protesters were killed and 435 wounded, most from live ammunition and birdshot, emergency services chief Mohammed Sultan told to the state news agency.
At a nationally televised news conference, Army Col. Ahmed Mohammed Ali said police and troops came under “heavy gunfire” at around 4 a.m. and attackers on rooftops opened fire with guns and Molotov cocktails. A soldier and two policemen were killed, and 42 in the security forces were wounded, eight critically, he said.
While he said troops had a right to defend the facility, Ali did not directly explain how the protester deaths occurred. He expressed condolences but offered no apologies for the deaths.

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