Dozens Die In Clashes Outside Cairo's Republican Guard HQ

In Egypt, dozens of people were killed in a clash between protesters and security forces Monday morning. The Muslim Brotherhood says government forces fired on them. The military says the headquarters was stormed by protesters.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And let's get the latest now from Egypt. That country saw a military coup last Wednesday. And five days since President Mohammed Morsi was removed, we're seeing some of the worst violence yet. At least 42 people died in a clash between protesters and security forces this morning. It was the deadliest single incident since protests erupted after the coup. Most of the dead are Muslim Brotherhood supporters of Morsi, but at least two police officers and a soldier were also killed. Hundreds of people were wounded.

The violence took place in front of the Republican Guard building where former President Morsi is reportedly being held. And NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson joins us on the line from Cairo to update us. And, Soraya, what is the understanding of what happened here, the worst outbreak of violence since the coup?

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Yes. It's the deadliest incident in years, actually, as it turns out. But what's been happening is in front of the Republican Guard building, you've been having this sit-in of president - I should say deposed President Mohammed Morsi's supporters, and they've been there day after day since he was deposed. And this morning, during prayers, a very violent attack broke out. Initially, it was with birdshot and teargas, and it quickly escalated to rubber bullets and live fire, and it ended being a bloodbath, frankly.

And that's the only thing we know for sure. There are very conflicting accounts about what happened, with the Muslim Brotherhood saying that they were there peacefully praying, and were attacked unprovoked, whereas the military and police are saying that the Muslim Brotherhood supporters there had tried to scale the walls and, in fact, opened fire on them.

GREENE: So dueling press conferences, I gather, trying to sort of what exactly what happened. Are we going to get to the facts at some point, or is this just going to be sort of two sides pointing at each other?

NELSON: Well, each side presented a very long list of detailed - blow-by-blow, if you will, of what happened with video footage, competing video footage. But, of course, again, it doesn't seem to be getting any clearer as to what happened. The Muslim Brotherhood, also at its very emotional press conference, said that the military coup was taking Egypt into a pool of blood. And at the military press conference, they talked about - I mean, they showed footage, and they were very angry about being accused of killing children, which is something that the Muslim Brotherhood was accusing them of and showing footage of, saying that this is something that came from Syria. It had nothing to do with Egypt. And that they had every right to protect themselves.

The police also pointed out that they've had 12 officers killed and 107 injured since the uprising against President Morsi - this - on June 28th, as what they were counting. And the military says any installation in the world or any military in the world is allowed to protect its installation, and that they had given multiple warnings, and that they were provoked this morning.

GREENE: That's just that there's a lot of deaths we're talking about. And, Soraya, going forward and looking for a possible resolution to all this, if a new interim government comes together, there was hope on the government's side that that this other Islamist faction, the al-Nour Party, might join with an interim government, even if the Muslim Brotherhood, you know, does not. But now, al-Nour has announced that they're pulling out of talks. What kind of impact might that have?

NELSON: Well, that would be a terrible blow for the military leaders of this coup, as well as for the largely secular coalition that has backed the ouster of Mohammed Morsi. The Nour Party had a very strong statement this morning. They've softened it since then and said they're still talking with the coalition, but that they've suspended negotiations, per se.

GREENE: And briefly, Soraya, is violence widespread in Cairo today, or is it focused in just this one area where we saw this outbreak this morning?

NELSON: Well, thus far, the violence was just in that one area. Emotions are running very high, though. People all over the streets in Cairo are talking about this and are fighting - I mean - or - and I should say each side is fighting for the viewpoint, or for the public opinion here. And so - but it is very much talked about. At this stage, funerals have not taken place yet, either, because the bodies haven't been released from the morgue.

GREENE: All right. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, updating us on the violence this morning in Cairo, the deadliest incident so far since President Morsi was deposed last week, and we'll be having much more throughout the day here from NPR News. Soraya, thanks so much.

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