The death toll passed 500 on a second day of violence in Egypt following the military attack on Muslim Brotherhood encampments in Cairo Wednesday, with supporters of deposed President Morsi carrying out a wave of revenge attacks on military and civilian targets across the country.
Dozens of soldiers have been killed, and in some cases mutilated, according to local media reports. Brotherhood supporters targeted churches, with several burned down, as Christians also become targets.
Sources in Cairo told Metro that much of the civilian population is staying off the streets or leaving the city, with the central areas a “battlefield”. A state of emergency has been imposed for a month, with many public services suspended.
“The Brotherhood supporters are not strong enough to take on the army but they can cause chaos,” activist and writer Wael Nawara told Metro from the capital. “They are attacking unprotected police stations and governorate buildings. We have to call this by its name – terrorism.”
Nawara added that Brotherhood leaders have admitted responsibility by saying the attacks will stop when Morsi is reinstated, and criticized them for “manipulating their supporters and using them as human shields.”
The situation is likely to deteriorate further. “Events of the past two days will almost certainly lead to further violence, which the interim authorities may use as an excuse to extend the period of military rule,” Lucy Jones, Middle East analyst at the Control Risks security consultancy, told Metro. “The prospects for meaningful negotiations in the short term are very bleak.”
Prospects for fresh elections and a renewal of the transition to democracy are also distant, and the violence could spread abroad. In the past week there have been rockets launched from Egypt’s Sinai governorate toward Israel, and Jones believes that “anti-foreign sentiment is rising on both sides and needs to be watched closely.”