3 Die in Egypt as Unrest Spreads Across Country
Tara Todras-Whitehill for The New York Times
Supporters of President Mohamed Morsi protested on Friday in Nasr City, a neighborhood of Cairo.
By KAREEM FAHIM and DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
Published: June 28, 2013
CAIRO — At least three people were killed and hundreds were injured across Egypt on Friday, as antigovernment protesters ransacked Muslim Brotherhood offices and tens of thousands of supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsi held dueling rallies in the capital.
While the protests in Cairo remained peaceful, deadly clashes erupted in the port city of Alexandria, where protesters set fire to the Brotherhood’s headquarters. Security officials said that among the victims was a United States citizen, a man who was stabbed to death near the headquarters.
The security official said it was not clear who had attacked the man, and the official was not able to provide information about a second victim in the city. A State Department spokesman, Patrick Ventrell, confirmed that an American citizen was killed in Alexandria, but said he had no further information.
The violence on Friday provided a dark prelude to planned mass protests on Sunday by Mr. Morsi’s opponents, who are demanding that the president step down and early elections be held. Fears about possible violence at the marches have preoccupied the country for weeks and further split Egypt’s deeply polarized political class.
In recent days, both the army and Egypt’s highest religious authority have warned about the potential for deadly civil strife. On Friday, the United States warned its citizens to defer “nonessential” travel to Egypt and said it was allowing some of its embassy employees and their families to leave the country because of the political unrest.
At least seven people have been killed in violent episodes over the last three days outside Cairo. The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest Islamist party and the movement that brought Mr. Morsi to power, said that several of its supporters were killed in attacks on its offices and on mosques.
Early Friday, at least one person died in Mr. Morsi’s hometown, Zagazig, according to the Freedom and Justice Party, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing. Later on Friday, at least four other Brotherhood offices were attacked, including by people using firearms and gasoline bombs, the group said in a statement.
Some Brotherhood members may have been similarly well-armed. A video posted by the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry al-Youm on Friday appeared to show Brotherhood supporters in Alexandria firing homemade pistols during clashes.
In Cairo, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in competing protests that remained separate, and as a result, largely peaceful. Antigovernment protesters gathered in Tahrir Square, around the Defense Ministry and in front of the presidential palace, which has been ringed with new barriers, including concrete blocks and shipping containers.
Calls for Mr. Morsi to resign have intensified as Egypt lurches from crisis to crisis, the most recent one over the endless gas lines that have clogged roads around the country.
The largest of the rallies on Friday was by Mr. Morsi’s supporters at a regular meeting point in Nasr City, convening during midday prayers to defend the “legitimacy” of Mr. Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected leader.
While an imam told the crowd to choose peace over violence, many in attendance seemed to be bracing for a fight. Vendors sold hard hats and wooden canes. Men carried green PVC tubing and wooden planks. The men said the weapons were for “self-defense,” but some said that extended to defending the presidential palace if the police and Mr. Morsi’s guards were not up to the task.
“Putting down the Muslim Brotherhood has become a common thing in this country,” said Ahmed Abdul Aziz, 38, who attended the rally. He echoed sentiments voiced by Mr. Morsi and his allies with growing conviction — dismissing the opposition as driven by disgruntled remnants of the government of former President Hosni Mubarak.
“It is the first time that we see the candidates who lost elections try to fight back through undemocratic means,” he said.
Mayy El Sheikh contributed reporting from Cairo.