Morsi backers defiant in face of Egypt govt threat

CAIRO (AP) — Escalating the confrontation after clashes that left 83 supporters of Egypt’s ousted Islamist president dead, the interim government moved Sunday toward dismantling two pro-Mohammed Morsi sit-in camps, accusing protesters of “terrorism” and vowing to deal with them decisively.

Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood denounced Saturday’s bloodshed as evidence of the brutality of the military-backed regime. But many accused the group’s leaders of trying to capitalize on the loss of life to win sympathy after millions took to the streets in a show of support for the military chief who ousted Morsi in a coup.

Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said he would take the popular support as a mandate to deal with violence and “potential terrorism” — a thinly veiled reference to a widely expected crackdown on Morsi supporters in the sit-in camps in Cairo and against radical Islamists in the Sinai peninsula who have been waging deadly attacks against security forces since Morsi was ousted in a July 3 military coup.

The coup followed days of mass protests by millions of Egyptians demanding that Morsi step down after a year in office as Egypt’s first elected president. The monthlong sit-ins have been the launch pad of street protests that often ended violently when Morsi’s supporters clashed with opponents or security forces.

Islamists led by the Brotherhood staunchly reject the new post-Morsi leadership and insist the only possible solution to the crisis is to reinstate him. Meanwhile, the interim leadership is pushing ahead with a fast-track transition plan to return to a democratically elected government by early next year.

The Brotherhood, accused by critics of trying to monopolize power during Morsi’s year in office, routinely claims its supporters are killed in cold blood by army troops, police or thugs sponsored by the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of police. However, witnesses and videos posted on social networking sites show that Morsi’s supporters consistently use rocks, firebombs and firearms against opponents, who behave similarly.

The Brotherhood’s tactic is clearly designed to win sympathy at home and abroad by portraying itself as a victimized party pitted against an army and a police force armed to the teeth.

“We urge the United Nations, the international human community ... to come down and rescue the hundreds of thousands from the massacre by the live ammunition in the hands of the criminals,” senior Brotherhood leader Mohammed el-Beltagi shouted from the stage at the larger of the two Cairo sit-ins.

The international community, meanwhile, urged restraint.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also asked security forces to “act with full respect for human rights” and demonstrators to “exercise restraint.”

Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, arrived in Cairo on Sunday for her second visit to Egypt this month, a sign of the alarm felt in the West over the continuing bloodshed. She was to meet Egyptian leaders on Monday.

The U.N.’s human rights chief, Navi Pillay, also condemned the violence and called for a “credible, independent investigation” into the killings.

“I fear for the future of Egypt if the military and other security forces, as well as some demonstrators, continue to take such a confrontational and aggressive approach. Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood have the right to protest peacefully like anyone else,” Pillay said.

The violence continued Sunday, when deadly clashes during funerals for two of the slain Morsi supporters left two men dead and scores injured in two cities north of Cairo, Port Said and Kafr el-Zayat.

Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim warned security forces would deal decisively with any attempts to destabilize the country. Ibrahim accused the pro-Morsi side of provoking bloodshed to win sympathy and suggested authorities would move against the two pro-Morsi protest camps outside the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque in eastern Cairo and in Nahda Square, near the main campus of Cairo University.

“I assure the glorious people of Egypt that the police are determined and capable to maintain security and safety to their nation with the support of the sincere sons of the country,” Ibrahim said during a graduation ceremony at the

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