CLASHES continued in Egypt yesterday as both supporters and opponents of President Mohammed Morsi staged mass demonstrations across the country.
Tension has risen ahead of a protest planned by the opposition for today calling on Morsi to step down.
The protest is being held to coincide with the one-year anniversary of Morsi’s inauguration
Three people, including an American student, were killed on Friday and mass rallies are planned for today aimed at unseating Morsi.
Hundreds of people have been wounded and at least eight killed in street fighting as political deadlock deepens.
Tensions have been rising ahead of the mass rally to demand the president steps down. His supporters are stressing what they see as Morsi’s “legitimacy”, rejecting the opposition’s demand.
Speaking during an official visit to South Africa, American president Barack Obama said the US was “looking with concern” at the situation in Egypt.
“We support peaceful protests and peaceful methods of bringing about change in Egypt,” Obama said, but he added that every party had to “denounce violence”.
The US State Department confirmed Andrew Pochter, 21, died in Alexandria on Friday while photographing battles between supporters and opponents of the president on his mobile phone.
He was an intern at Amideast, an American non-profit organisation working in international education and training in the Middle East and North Africa.
There are conflicting reports about how he died. Egyptian officials say he was stabbed in the chest, but other reports say he was hit by gun pellets.
The US State Department said it had “authorised the departure of a limited number of non-emergency employees and family members” from Egypt.
It asked Americans “to defer non-essential travel to Egypt at this time due to the continuing possibility of political and social unrest”.
Cairo’s main airport was packed with departing passengers, and all flights leaving for Europe, the US and the Gulf were fully booked, officials said.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged Egyptians to respect “universal principles of peaceful dialogue” amid growing concern over the tension between Morsi’s supporters and his opponents. The office of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Alexandria was recently set on fire.
Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, became Egypt’s first Islamist president on 30 June, 2012, after winning an election considered free and fair.
Some Egyptians have told how the Brotherhood was using the revolution to entrench its power and Islamic law, but others had economic grievances.
“There are no services, we can’t find diesel or petrol,” said 42-year-old accountant Mohamed Abdel Latif.
“We elected Morsi, but this is enough. Let him make way for someone else who can fix it. With the state we’re in now, even a stone would cry out.”
Morsi has warned that divisions threatened to “paralyse” Egypt. He offered a dialogue with the opposition – a move rejected by his opponents.