Egypt violence: Army 'won't be silent'
19 August 2013, 12:48
Cairo - Egypt's hardline military leader pledged a
"forceful" response to violence rocking the country, as top EU
officials prepared Monday to hold emergency talks on the crisis that has
claimed nearly 800 lives in five days.
In his first comments since authorities launched a bloody
crackdown on supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi, military chief
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi warned security forces would confront any further violence
"We will never be silent in the face of the destruction
of the country," said Sisi, who overthrew Morsi on 3 July after protests
against the Islamist president's rule.
"We are very prepared for this," he said, pledging
a "forceful" response to further attacks on police stations and
The violence sparked by the crackdown has drawn
international condemnation and EU leaders have warned the bloc will
"urgently review" ties with Cairo in the coming days.
European ambassadors were recalled from their summer break
for an emergency meeting on the crisis expected to start in Brussels at 08:00
The European Union has pledged nearly $6.7bn in aid to Egypt
but the bloc has cautioned this too was under "constant review" after
In a joint statement on the eve of the talks, EU leaders
Herman van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso said: "The EU will urgently review
in the coming days its relations with Egypt."
Calling for violence to end "immediately", they
stressed that "the calls for democracy and fundamental freedoms from the
Egyptian population cannot be disregarded, much less washed away in blood".
Suffocations and crowding
But the bloodshed showed little sign of stopping on Sunday
as 36 Islamists were killed during an attempted jailbreak.
There were conflicting reports of how the deaths occurred
but the Egyptian interior ministry said the prisoners had taken an officer
hostage and died after suffocating on tear gas.
"Thirty-six of the prisoners died of suffocation and
crowding after tear gas was used to stop their escape," the ministry said.
The killings were the latest in five days of bloodshed since
Wednesday's police and military operation to clear Islamists from protest camps
The Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi's once banned movement that
backed his election victory in 2012, said 35 prisoners died, revising an
earlier toll of 52.
"The murder of 35 detained anti-coup protestors affirms
the intentional violence aimed at opponents of the coup, and the cold-blooded
killing of which they are targets," it said in a statement in English.
The Islamists said they cancelled "several marches"
on Sunday, citing fears of vigilantes and snipers.
Elsewhere in Egypt, hundreds of protesters briefly marched
in the Suez canal city of Ismailiya, an AFP correspondent said.
Two policemen were later killed in a shooting attack near
the city, according to the interior ministry.
Violence has also continued to plague the Sinai Peninsula,
where a civilian, two soldiers and a policeman were killed overnight Saturday,
security sources said.
The unrest has left Egypt divided as never before.
Vigilantes have pulled bearded men out of cars, and a mob
chanted "terrorists" as Morsi supporters were dragged from Cairo's
Al-Fath mosque on Saturday after a tense siege that included exchanges of
According to an AFP tally, more than 1 000 people have been
killed since mass demonstrations against Morsi erupted at the end of June,
among them a son of the Brotherhood's supreme guide who died on Friday.
Despite the international condemnation of the violence,
authorities have stood firm, saying security forces are facing down a
"terrorist plot" while dismissing reports it plans to ban the
But French President Francois Hollande said after a meeting
with the Saudi foreign minister: "It is unacceptable that there is
violence of this level in a great country like Egypt."
British Foreign Secretary William Hague has called his
Egyptian counterpart to condemn violence by both sides, and described as
"unacceptable" attacks against churches.
The United States has announced the cancellation of its
biannual military exercise with Egypt, and its embassy in Cairo was closed
Sunday for security reasons.
The White House has stopped short of suspending $1.3bn in
annual aid, although some US lawmakers called Sunday for the funds to be cut.
But the international response has not been uniformly
critical. Both Saudi Arabia and Jordan have said they back Egypt in its fight
On Sunday morning, the capital showed signs of returning to
normal, with traffic beginning to flow again and banks and shops reopening for
the first time since Wednesday.
Wednesday's storming of protest camps set up by Morsi
supporters sparked nationwide clashes that claimed at least 578 lives.