Egyptian capital becomes battle zone amid crisis
BY AYA BATRAWY, APCAIRO — Soldiers fired their rifles in the air to keep a crowd from attacking supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi as they were being taken, one by one, out of the Al-Fath mosque in Cairo where they had been besieged by security forces overnight.
August 19, 2013, 2:09 pm TWN
One man in the crowd, however, was able to reach over the soldiers and strike a detained protester with a stick. Others chanted against Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood group.
The scene encapsulated the venomous mood in Cairo.
The streets of Egypt's capital have become a deadly battleground between Morsi's supporters and backers of the military that overthrew him. The crisis has severed friendships and, in some cases, turned neighbor against neighbor in the city of more than 18 million people.
More than 450 people have been killed in Cairo over the past four days, just over half the country's nationwide death toll during the week of violence. Hundreds of those victims died when Egyptian security forces attacked two pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo on Wednesday.
How events play out in Cairo could largely determine whether Egypt can step back from the brink of chaos.
Over the weekend, street battles raged throughout the metropolis, once a stable corner of the Middle East. Armed civilians and security forces fought armed Morsi supporters and protesters. People openly fired automatic rifles and pistols at one another on main overpasses and roads. Most residents cowered in their homes, many staying clear of windows and balconies.
Metro stations near protest sites are closed, and military tanks enforce an army-imposed state of emergency that grants security forces broad powers to make arrests. Residents have locked entrances to their apartment buildings, and police stations and prisons have come under attack.
The city, normally bustling at all hours of the day and night, now slips into an eerie quiet interrupted at times by gunfire during an 11-hour curfew that starts at 7 p.m. The usually gridlocked streets are devoid of nighttime traffic.