Egypt Clashes Among Country's Worst Bloodshed

Protests in Egypt turned violent Saturday after authorities cracked down on supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.

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Egypt's Health Ministry reports more than 70 people have died in clashes between security forces and protesters that took place on a major road in Cairo. Most of them were supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood from which he hails.

Reaction to the fighting in Egypt is rather muted at the moment. But as NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports, a growing number of Egyptians are concerned over what the government is planning next.

(SOUNDBITE OF CONVERSATIONS)

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: The main morgue in Cairo was too full to accommodate all of the bodies from the attack. Some of them, draped in sheets, remained outside in the sweltering heat. Human Rights Watch reports that many of those killed were shot in the head, neck, or chest by riot police.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING PROTESTERS)

NELSON: The clashes began when pro-Morsi protesters tried expanding their sit-in camp to a major boulevard, where they were confronted by police and armed civilians.

The Muslim Brotherhood claims the attack was unprovoked, but security officials claim they were only reacting to pro-Morsi protestors moving in on anti-Morsi demonstrators.

MOHAMMED IBRAHIM: (Foreign Language Spoken)

NELSON: At a news conference yesterday, Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim also denied that police officers were aiming to kill.

IBRAHIM: (Foreign Language Spoken)

NELSON: He added that to improve public safety, he is reactivating unpopular security agencies that spy on Egyptians and that were mothballed after Hosni Mubarak's ouster. That didn't sit well with supporters of the interim government, including the Tamarod movement, which is credited with generating the popular groundswell that led to the military coup.

In a statement posted online, the group said it utterly rejects a return to civil rights infringements of the Mubarak era, even in the name of fighting religious extremism and terrorism.

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Cairo.

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