DEPOSED Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi is now under investigation for an array of charges including murder, the state news agency said, stoking tensions as opposing political camps took to the streets.
Two men were killed in confrontations in Egypt’s second city Alexandria yesterday and a further 19 were hurt, Mena news agency reported.
Heeding a call by army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for people to take to the streets to give the military a mandate to confront violence and “terrorism”, hundreds of thousands rallied in Egypt’s cities yesterday. The crowds welcomed the military’s pledge to confront weeks of violence unleashed by the overthrow of Mr Morsi on 3 July.
Supporters of the deposed Islamist leader also staged mass, counter-demonstrations to demand his reinstatement, shrugging off fears of an imminent crackdown and vowing not to give in to an army demand for an end to their protests.
Hundreds of people fought a pitched battled in Alexandria, with birdshot fired and men on roof tops hurling stones at the crowds below. Seven protesters were also reported hurt in the Nile delta city of Damietta.
In Cairo, military helicopters flew low over the main pro-Morsi tent vigil before circling Tahrir Square, flooded with flag-waving army supporters.
The West is increasingly concerned over the course taken by the country of 84 million people, a pivotal nation between the Middle East and North Africa and recipient of $1.5 billion (£980m) a year in mainly military aid from the United States. Mr Morsi has not been seen in public since he was ousted in a coup and the army has said he is being held for his own safety.
Mena said he would be detained for 15 days as a judge investigated allegations.
The probe centres on charges he conspired with Palestinian Islamist group Hamas to flee jail during the 2011 uprising against autocrat Hosni Mubarak, killing some prisoners and officers, kidnapping soldiers and torching buildings.
Mr Morsi has previously said locals helped him escape and the Muslim Brotherhood denounced the accusations levelled against him.
“At the end of the day, we know all of these charges are nothing more than the fantasy of a few army generals and a military dictatorship,” Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad said. “We are continuing our protests on the streets.”
Many thousands of men, women and children joined Brotherhood supporters at their round-the-clock vigil in north-east Cairo.
“It is either victory over the coup or martyrdom,” said senior Brotherhood politician Mohamed El-Beltagy, addressing the packed pro-Morsi rally. “Our blood and our souls for Islam,” the crowds chanted.
The army has threatened to “turn its guns” on those who use violence, while the Brotherhood has warned of civil war, denying suggestions that it is provoking trouble.
Convulsed by political and economic turmoil, Egypt is deeply polarised, struggling to make the transition from the autocratic rule of the discredited Mubarak to democracy.
“The Brothers stole our revolution,” said Salah Saleh, a horse trainer at a central Cairo rally, voicing widespread criticism that Mr Morsi refused to share out power after narrowly winning office and then failed to tackle Egypt’s many woes.
“They came and sat on the throne and controlled everything.”
Mr Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders were rounded up by the authorities during the 2011 revolt that swept Mubarak from power. Many managed to escape in the ensuing confusion, alongside militants from Hamas, a Palestinian offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood that governs in the neighbouring Gaza Strip.
Hamas challenged investigators to find “one piece of evidence” that it had meddled in Egyptian affairs.