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6 Dec, 2012 06:32

Curfew hits Cairo after military tanks quell anti-Morsi protests

Egyptian authorities have imposed a curfew in Cairo to curb street protests after the military sent tanks and armored troop carriers to the capital to quash the violence.

Several tanks are guarding the area in front of the presidential palace, while hundreds of people are streaming into Cairo downtown defying the freshly imposed curfew. Earlier in the day, the presidential office ordered a huge crowd of protesters remaining in the square in front of the palace since night time to clear the area by 3:00pm (13:00 GMT). After that deadline a curfew was re-imposed in the capital, resulting in an effective ban on demonstrations. The move comes less than six months after curfew was victoriously lifted to mark the end of Hosni Mubarak's rule. The protests, which flared up on Tuesday, continued on Thursday after another night of violence. Witnesses said that even after being separated by police and military cordons, supporters and opponents of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi continued to hurl stones and insults at each other in front of the Ittihadia presidential palace in Cairo. Ahmed Agor, a protester injured in Wednesday's violence, told RT he does not believe tanks will choke the demonstrations.“After six people dead – and before that three people killed – I don’t think these protests are going to die out any time soon,” Agor said on Thursday. “Some people are objecting to Morsi’s constitution and declaration. But most people came here today because people were killed here in yesterday's clashes. No one likes how it is going, how Egypt is getting polarized between pro- and anti-Morsi supporters.”Meanwhile, Morsi's family was forced to evacuate from their house in al-Zagazig, a town 47 miles (76 km) northeast of Cairo, after hundreds of protesters gathered outside the residence to slam the authorities' "poor perfomance" curbing the recent unrest, Al-Mayadeen TV channel reported. Police used tear gas to disperse the demonstration in al-Zagazig, which soon grew into scuffles between the president's supporters and opponents. At least 17 people were injured there, reports RT's correspondent Paula Slier.Six people have been killed in Cairo in the protests so far – including journalist Al Hosseini Abou Dief, who died from a shotgun wound – and over 450 were injured during the ongoing clashes between protesters and government forces, Ahram Online estimated. The Egypt Independent newspaper claimed that two of the dead were a woman and teenager. Egypt’s Interior Ministry also reported that 32 people were arrested.The clashes mark the worst violence in Egypt since the recent crisis erupted on November 22, when President Morsi assumed vastly expanded powers and started pushing for a vote on the country's new consitution.

Morsi supporters ‘detained’ 83 opposition ‘thugs’

The Muslim Brotherhood says it and supporters of President Morsi detained 83 opposition members on Wednesday night in and around the presidential palace, reports Ahram Online. Those seized were allegedly carrying weapons and Molotov cocktails. After detainment, the suspects were not handed over to the police until prosecution and forensic experts inspected evidence. "The 83 'thugs' were arrested with money, white weapons and Molotov cocktails," Brotherhood lawyer Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maqsoud says. "They admitted causing riots and killing and injuring hundreds of [the president's] supporters."The report provoked anger among anti-Morsi demonstrators who remained in front of the Ittihadia presidential palace in Cairo.“They called us thugs, and we're university students," the crowd chanted as quoted by eyewitnesses posting on Twitter.

Three top officials have already resigned over the violence, including the chief of the constitutional committee, Zaghloul El-Balshi, who announced his resignation on Egyptian television on Wednesday night.“I will not participate in a referendum that spilled Egyptian blood, I call on Morsi to cancel the constitutional declaration immediately,” Ahram Online quoted El-Balshi as saying.

The volatile situation has also led to the resignation of five more of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s advisors, including Seif Abdel Fattah, Ayman Sayyad and Amr Leithy who quitted Wednesday over the violence. Mena news agency reported a further resignation on Thursday. Three others did so last week to protest Morsi's November decree.The head of state television, Essam al-Amir, also quitted, reports the independent newspaper Al-Masry al-Youm. Submitting his resignation to Information Minister Salah Abdel Maqsoud on Thursday he said this was his protest against “the way the country has been run since [the president] issued the recent constitutional declaration.”Egypt's top Islamic body, Al-Azhar, has called on the president to suspend his decree claiming broad powers. The institution also demanded an unconditional dialogue between the president and his opponents.On Thursday, President Morsi held an urngent meeting with General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is the head of the military and defense minister, and other ministers in a bid to bring back order and stability to the country. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Hisham Qandil issued a brief statement calling for calm and a “national dialogue.”The recent protests engulfed Egypt after newly elected President Morsi signed a decree granting his office vastly increased powers, also stripping the judiciary of any chance to challenge his decisions. Protesters claim this is akin to the authoritarian rule of ousted President Hosni Mubarak.On Tuesday, Morsi was forced to flee his presidential palace after roughly 200 protesters broke through barbed wire barriers and besieged the building. Police forces reportedly retreated, allowing demonstrators to move closer to the palace. At least 18 people were injured in clashes with police as the amount of demonstrators swelled to roughly 10,000 people.

On Wednesday night, RT's Tom Barton described the scene around the presidential palace as "pandemonium" as Morsi opponents who had been staging a sit-in in front of the presidential palace fiercely clashed with Morsi's supporters. Wednesday violence broke out shortly after President Morsi returned to his residence to resume his work. Journalist Wael Eskandar told RT he was worried that the government would not be able to deal with the ongoing clashes. The anti-Morsi protesters were being chased away by Muslim Brotherhood supporters who were using rocks, Molotov cocktails and even “shotguns,” Eskander said.

Despite recent developments, Morsi and his office insisted that the planned constitutional referendum would proceed on December 15. Egyptian Vice President Mahmoud Mekky also said that "the door is open" to amend the disputed articles of the Constitution ahead of the referendum. This was reportedly turned down by the opposition groups who said that a dialogue is only possible if Morsi retracts his controversial decrees.

During the clashes on Wednesday, Muslim Brotherhood supporters destroyed a tent camp erected by the opposition.At the same time, anti-Morsi demonstrators set fire to and attacked a number of Muslim Brotherhood offices throughout the country, according to local media. Offices in Ismailia and Damietta, north of Cairo, as well as in Zagazig were attacked.