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16 Aug, 2013 11:57

Mosque under siege: Hundreds of Cairo protesters barricade themselves inside following deadly clashes

The‘March of Anger’ has resulted in almost 100 deaths and numerous injuries. Hundreds have taken refuge in mosques overnight to avoid confrontations with Egyptian police. The Muslim Brotherhood has called for week-long action amid the crackdown.

An estimated 1500 people trapped inside Al Fath mosque in Cairo’s Ramses Square have asked for “a safe exit” at the end of the curfew which finishes at 7am local time.

Security forces besieged Al Fath mosque at the end the "Friday of Anger" protests.  Security officials claimed that "armed elements" were "shooting security forces and police from inside the mosque," MENA reported. However, activists say the army was attacking them.   

The head of the Doctors’ Syndicate told Ahram Online that 1500 protesters and 31 doctors have asked for a safety corridor, after earlier reports indicated that people inside the mosque were fearing for their lives. Around 70 people are believed to be injured inside the building.

“They demand a safe exit because they fear if they leave the mosque they will be arrested and humiliated. They want to go out in the presence of human rights representatives, media personnel, and members of the Doctors Syndicate to make sure this will not happen,” medic Ahmed Hussein said. 

Earlier, AFP reported that soldiers offered to evacuate women but insisted on questioning men, which the protesters refused. "Thugs tried to storm the mosque but the men barricaded the doors," the agency quoted one of the people inside the mosque as saying.

During the day, gunfire rang out across the city's capital when Muslim Brotherhood supporters attempted to convene in Cairo's Ramses Square. Security forces apparently opened fire from a number of directions after protesters attempted to siege a police station. However, it remains unclear who fired the first shots.

Following Friday prayers, protesters chanting “Down with military rule!”  marched from northeast Cairo toward Ramses Square in the center of the city and several large mosques. The army had deployed armored vehicles on the main roads in the capital. 

RT's Bel Trew reports that protesters brandished shoes - an insult in Arab culture - at military helicopters circling overhead.

Morsi supporters blocking onramp to May bridge on Giza side and bridge itself. Photo: pic.twitter.com/7X8gYCcVs9

— Jared Malsin (@jmalsin) August 16, 2013

"Sooner or later I will die. Better to die for my rights than in my bed. Guns don't scare us anymore,"
Sara Ahmed, a business manager who joined with the demonstrators on Friday told Reuters. "It's not about the Brotherhood, it's about human rights."

At least one enormous fire erupted in a building as the city faded into darkness towards the evening.

A protester supporting ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi carries an injured demonstrator (R) during clashes outside Azbkya police station at Ramses Square in Cairo, August 16, 2013.(Reuters / Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

There are conflicting reports as to the official death toll, with Reuters estimating that at least 90 died in the day's turmoil. While the majority of the deaths took place in Cairo, nearly 30 happened elsewhere in the country.

Among those killed in other cities were eight protesters involved in clashes in the Mediterranean town Damietta, five in Fayoum, southwest of Cairo, and Eight in Egypt's second largest city, Alexandria.

Twenty-four policemen have been killed since late on Thursday.

The Muslim Brotherhood and others in the Anti-Coup Alliance had called for nationwide demonstrations following the break up of two Islamist sit-in camps by government forces earlier in the week. More than 630 people died in Wednesday's violent dispersal of protesters, who are still contesting the military-backed ousting of ex-President Mohamed Morsi last month.

After Friday's violence, the Muslim Brotherhood called for a further week of daily nationwide protests.

State TV had broadcast a warning from the security services that the army and police force would deal firmly with any "violation of the law." The Interior Ministry has authorized the use of "lethal force" if protesters attack security forces or government facilities. 

Pro-Morsi march on 15th of May Bridge over Zamalek pic.twitter.com/vHKzJQsAIX

— Basil الضبع (@basildabh) August 16, 2013

People writing down their names on their forearms in case they get shot. #Egypthttp://t.co/Jpfj2BD9jv

— Mahmoud Khattab (@Mamoudinijad) August 16, 2013

The tension escalated as anti-coup protesters were reported to be shooting automatic weapons from the May 15 bridge - a bottleneck in the heart of the city - before it became engulfed in clouds of tear gas released by the police. 

Protesters also firebombed a police station just off Ramses Square.

Gunfire just started over Ramsis square, seems to be coming from the bridge. Automatic weapon. People holding their ground.

— Bel Trew - بل ترو (@Beltrew) August 16, 2013

Military outposts have been constructed around key government buildings in anticipation of further violence. 

RT's Paula Slier reported that 20 police officers had been wounded when protesters fired at two security cars in a northern suburb of Cairo.

Violence has also been reported elsewhere in the country.

A railroad north of Cairo connecting the cities of Alexandria and Marsa Matrouh was damaged in a bomb attack. No casualties were immediately reported. Authorities are working to restore rail services.

In Alexandria itself five people died, and 15 more were wounded during a replay of the capital's clashes.

Four pro-Morsi protesters were reportedly killed and 11 others injured in clashes with police in the northern city of Ismailia.

Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood supporters carry a wounded protestor in Cairo's Ramses square on August 16, 2013 after clashes broke out with police during a demonstration in support of Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi.(AFP Photo / Khaled Kamel)

 Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood supporters carry a wounded man in Cairo's Ramses square on August 16, 2013 as clashes broke out with police during a demonstration in support of Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi. (AFP Photo / Khaled Kamel)

In the northern city of Damietta eight protesters were killed, Reuters reported, citing medical workers.

There was also a shooting of a policeman in the Sinai Peninsula and an attempt to torch a club for judges in northern Egypt, which resulted in several cars being burned.

And security sources said clashes had broken out between Morsi loyalists and security forces in Tanta, north of the capital.

Tamarod, the movement involved in protests that led to the military toppling Morsi, has called for counter-demonstrations.

A small group of pro-government supporters has remained in Tahrir Square since Morsi’s ouster.

Tanks tightened their circle around Tahrir, several tanks facing outwards. People are now guarding entrances w/sticks wrapped in barbed wire

— Bel Trew - بل ترو (@Beltrew) August 16, 2013

Egyptian authorities on Thursday cited the need to protect state property and ensure people’s security as the reason for authorizing the use of lethal force against protesters.

Supporters of Egypt's deposed Islamist President Mohamed Mursi shout slogans during a rally in protest of the recent violence in Egypt, in Sanaa August 16, 2013.(Reuters / Khaled Abdullah)

Islamists have carried out attacks multiple attacks this week, targeting government facilities and churches used by Christian Copts.