CAIRO -- Several cities across Egypt erupted into fierce street battles Friday between supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi outraged over the deaths of hundreds at sit-ins earlier this week, residents and security forces.
Health Ministry officials said that at least 60 people died, pushing the death toll toward 700 since armed government forces swept into two camps of pro-Morsi demonstrators Wednesday. Several news channels described the days events as Egypt fighting terrorism, embracing the governments definition of members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the secretive organization through which Morsi had ascended to the presidency.
In a statement, the Brotherhood called for its supporters to go back to the streets for another week. Those opposed to the military ouster of the democratically elected Morsi only have two options: either to go back home or protest. If they go back home, they will suffer from oppression and military rule, said Amr Darrag, who leads the foreign affairs committee of the Muslim Brotherhoods Freedom and Justice Party. The regime is (killing protesters) because they dont have any political means to end the crisis.
In Cairo, abandoned highways and bridges were peppered with burnt cars, blockades and tanks, as Morsi supporters, largely Islamists, marched in what they called a Day of Rage against Wednesdays unprecedented government crackdown. The various protests never could coalesce, as they were confronted by repeated gunfire, forcing them to disperse.
Morsi supporters charged that either police or military personnel were shooting at them from helicopters that hovered over the capital. At one point, video captured protesters plunging from a bridge into the Nile to escape the gunfire. Lines of bodies were at mosques turned into makeshift morgues.
Alaa Mohammed, 16, awoke Friday morning to attend the funeral of her friend Asmaa el Beltagy, 17, daughter of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed el Beltagy. Shed died Wednesday at the sit-in in the Rabaa section of Cairo. As women wailed for Asmaa, Mohammed said she planned to protest for the first time in her life because the military has to be punished for what they are doing."
Marwa Dewaidar, 33, a 16-year member of the Brotherhood who once taught Asmaa, urged the women around her to write their names and national ID numbers on their arms in case they too, ended up at the morgue.
We cannot live with these people, Dewaidar said of the government as women around her began asking each other for pens.
The government and the Brotherhood blamed each other for Fridays violence. Many Morsi supporters vowed retribution, not for his ouster but for the deaths of their martyrs.
At 7 p.m., when a curfew started, the streets were largely empty with only sporadic clashes and fighting in the restive Sinai.
For the first time, Egyptians spoke Friday of potential civil war and asked how their nation compared with Algeria, which endured a brutal civil war in the 1990s, and Syria, which is engulfed in a 2-year-old civil war.
CC=Bashar said graffiti near Nasr City, in Cairos eastern outskirts. It was a reference to military strongman Gen. Abdel-Fattah el Sissi, pronounced See-See, equating him to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Through the gunfire at so many sites, it was unclear whod shot whom.