CAIRO, (Reuters) – At least three protesters were shot dead today outside the Republican Guard barracks in Cairo where deposed President Mohamed Mursi is being held, security sources said, as angry Islamist supporters confronted troops across the country.
Thousands of people marched across the country in what Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement called a “Friday of Rage” to protest against his ouster and an interim government set up to prepare for fresh elections.
Egypt’s first freely elected president was toppled on Wednesday in what his Islamist supporters call a military coup.
Mursi supporters in Cairo were hit by shotgun pellets after a crowd of several hundred people marched towards the barracks where Mursi is being held. Reuters photographers took pictures of at least one dead young man and several severely wounded being carried from the scene.
The army denied blame for the shootings. An army spokesman said troops did not open fire on the demonstrators and soldiers used only blank rounds and teargas to control the crowd. It was unclear whether security forces units other than army troops were also present.
Later, tens of thousands of cheering Islamists gathered near a mosque in a Cairo suburb where they were addressed by Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie, free to address them despite reports on Thursday that he had been arrested.
In a fiery speech, he vowed to “complete the revolution”, and repeatedly referred to Mursi as the president.
“To the great Egyptian army, I say ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is great) … I say … we will sacrifice,” he shouted as a military helicopter hovered low overhead.
He urged the army not to fire on its own citizens, and added: “Our bare chests are stronger than bullets.”
Continued violence would alarm the United States. Washington has so far avoided referring to the army’s removal of Mursi as a “coup”, a word that under U.S. law would require a halt to its $1.5 billion in annual aid. Mursi’s opponents also say it was not a coup but an intervention to impose the “people’s will”.