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August 7th, 2013

Egyptian Military Cracks Down on Morsi Supporters

Less than a month after a military coup ousted Egypt’s first democratically elected leader, President Mohammed Morsi, dozens of pro-Morsi supporters were killed in clashes with police and military forces this past weekend.

Morsi Supporters Continue Protest One Day After Scores Killed

A young supporter of deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi waits prior to the ‘iftar’ fast-breaking meal at a sit-in protest at the Rabaa al Adweya Mosque in the Nasr City district on July 28, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt, one day after scores were killed in a military crackdown.

The Egyptian military has focused their efforts on two public sit-ins staged by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi’s main support base. After a growing violent resistance movement in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula killed at least 20 members of Egypt’s security forces, the military has been cracking down hard on Islamist opponents across the country in an effort to combat “terrorism”.

In an attack this past weekend on a sit-in in Nasr City, Cairo, security forces killed at least 72 demonstrators, with some estimates climbing to more than 100 casualties.

Overall casualty counts are wide-ranging, but most estimates predict that more than 200 citizens and security personnel have been killed in the turmoil that has engulfed the country since the coup on July 3, when the military arrested President Morsi after massive protests.

The Middle Eastern nation of Egypt is strategically important to the United States due to its location: the land bridge between Africa and Asia, and neighbor to Israel.  Egypt is home to the Suez Canal, which is the only way to transport goods by water between Europe and Asia without having to navigate all the way around Africa.

Different groups united against Morsi

Violence began escalating this week in clashes between Morsi supporters and the military.  At least 50 people were killed outside the Army building where the deposed leader is being held. The military claims the Morsi supporters attempted to storm the building.

However, a spokesperson from Morsi’s political party, the Muslim Brotherhood, told reporters that military forces opened fire on the protesters at dawn.

The Egyptian military unseated President Morsi and leaders from his party in a coup July 3, barely a year after he took office in Egypt’s first-ever democratic presidential election in 2012.

The military had wide support from the people and from both liberal and conservative political and religious leaders.

People dance and cheer in Tahrir Square, the day after former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, the country's first democratically elected president, was ousted from power.

People dance and cheer in Tahrir Square, the day after former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected president, was ousted from power.

“I think this is a unique kind of coup, because almost all of the other social and political forces in Egypt other than the Muslim Brotherhood gave their assent to it,” Hussein Ibish, a Middle East commentator told the NewsHour.

“And that’s very unusual, so it is sort of a coup by acclamation. And there is a consensual quality to it that is extremely unusual in a coup d’etat.”

“No, the army didn’t carry out a coup,” said Egyptian protester Rida Abdul Malak. “This is the people’s will. The Muslim Brotherhood has failed. They failed to govern.”

President Morsi took to Twitter to reject the coup publicly. “Measures announced by Armed Forces leadership represent a full coup categorically rejected by all the free men of our nation,” read the official Twitter account of the Egyptian presidency. “Pres. Morsi urges civilians and military members to uphold the law & the Constitution not to accept that coup which turns #Egypt backwards.”

Egyptians concerned about Morsi’s performance

The most recent round of protests stems from frustration with the bleak economy, high unemployment, a tourism industry that has not recovered from the 2011 uprising and now major fuel shortages causing transportation pains.

“He made several promises that he didn’t fulfill. He only fulfilled the Brotherhood’s promises,” said one man in Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square, the site of the last revolution in 2011. “He’s been here for a year now and nothing has happened. He has not accomplished anything. The whole country came out.”

Morsi’s political opponents have complained that he and the Muslim Brotherhood refuse to compromise, and are more concerned with their own goals than the interests of the country.

Egypt waits for new elections

Until Egypt can put together democratic elections, Judge Adly Mansour has been sworn in as the country’s temporary leader. Mansour is the former chief justice of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court, who says he will uphold the spirit of the 2011 revolution while quickly organizing new presidential and parliamentary elections.

“I vow to safeguard the republican system and to respect the law and constitution and to look after the interests of the people and to preserve the independence of the homeland and its safety,” he said at his swearing-in ceremony.

The interim government has not yet announced a date for new elections.

Check out our interactive timeline of the turmoil in Egypt below.

— Compiled by Allison McCartney and Elizabeth Jones for NewsHour Extra

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