At Least 50 Egyptians Killed In Bloody Clash

Egyptian troops opened fire on Muslim Brotherhood protesters in Cairo on Monday, leaving more than 40 people dead and hundreds more wounded. There are conflicting accounts of what sparked the bloodshed, but police and troops have cleared the square in front of the Republican Guard headquarters where the Brotherhood protesters had gathered to demand the release of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. We begin this hour in Egypt, where the country's interim leader has set a timeframe for new elections. Adly Mansour announced that, first, Egyptians will vote on proposed amendments to the country's suspended constitution. That would take place in the next four and a half months. Afterward, they'd elect members of parliament, then vote for president once that parliament convenes. The decree caps off a day of the bloodiest clashes that Cairo has seen in more than a year. At least 51 Egyptians were killed and hundreds more wounded.

Today's incident plunges the polarized nation into an even deeper crisis as NPR's Leila Fadel reports.

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LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: A man yells as he holds up the bloody clothes of one victim. Victory is coming, he cries. He stands in the center of a makeshift clinic in eastern Cairo, surrounded by the injured. Many were shot in the back and head with birdshot. Supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi have been staging sit-ins here and other parts of the country since the military overthrew the elected Islamist president last week after millions of people took to the streets to reject his rule.

But outside the Republican guard headquarters where the clashes took place, the protesters are gone, the tents burned to the ground. People picked through the clothes and food left behind. It's unclear what transpired here. The military and supporters of the ousted president tell wildly different stories. But what is evident is that nearly all of the dead are protesters led by the Muslim Brotherhood who were out in support of ousted President Morsi.

At least two police officers and one soldier were also killed. A preacher calls for unity over a loudspeaker at a nearby mosque, but in Egypt, there is none. Those who support the ousted Islamist president say they are the victims of police and military brutality. They say they've been marginalized by angry liberals who refuse to accept Morsi's victory in last year's presidential election.

Morsi's opponents call his supporters terrorists and blame them for destabilizing the state. At a nearby hospital, men scroll through a list of the dead posted on the wall near the entrance. There are 36 bodies in total that were brought to this hospital. The tension here is palpable. A woman screams at one Morsi supporter at the gates of the hospital. It's enough. It's enough. They're dead, she screams, and then throws a brick at his head.

At a Brotherhood-led sit-in near the scene of today's violence, the injured and witnesses tell the same story. They were bowing their heads in prayer when the police and military opened fire.

AKMULA DELAZIZ: Of course, I had to run. I had to run.

FADEL: That's Akmula Delaziz(ph), a young sales manager who fled the gunfire. He's carrying a plastic bag filled with the bloody belongings of one of the dead.

DELAZIZ: (Speaking foreign language)

FADEL: But witnesses in the area where the clashes occurred say it isn't that simple. They say a crowd of Morsi supporters grew angry after their morning prayer. Some called for jihad, or holy struggle, as they moved toward the building where Morsi is believed to be held. Then, the tear gas began and then the gunshots.

Witnesses say they saw gunfire coming from both sides. Egypt's interim President Adly Mansour issued a statement calling for restraint and announcing the formation of a judicial committee to investigate the incident.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking foreign language)

FADEL: At a news conference, military spokesman Ahmed Aly rejected the Brotherhood's version of today's violence. The army, he declared, only kills its enemies, never its children. But for Morsi's supporters in the streets of Cairo, the army is now the enemy.

GEHAD EL HADDAD: They think they can terrorize us off the street. They can't. We know our cause is just. We're in it till the end.

FADEL: That's Gehad El Haddad, the Muslim Brotherhood spokesman. He vowed backers of the president would never be dragged into violence. But in the crowds of Morsi supporters here, some say the military is pushing the Islamists toward an all-out war. One man warned the West that if is supports this coup against a democratically elected leader, it will create a vicious enemy. Leila Fadel, NPR News, Cairo.

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