, CAIRO, Jul 28 – At least 72 people were killed during clashes in Cairo on Saturday, Egypt’s health ministry said, after violence erupted at a demonstration in support of ousted president Mohamed Morsi.
The ministry said nine others had died in violence in Egypt’s second city, Alexandria, a day earlier, putting the toll in two days of unrest at 81.
The Cairo bloodshed was the worst since Morsi’s ouster in a military-led coup on July 3, prompting domestic and international condemnation, as protesters accused security forces of using live ammunition.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, whose country contributes hundreds of millions of dollars in military and economic assistance to Egypt, expressed Washington’s “deep concern” about the bloodshed.
In a statement, Kerry called on the authorities to “respect the right of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression”.
Ahmed Aref, a spokesman for Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, said 66 people were killed at Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, where supporters of the ousted president have been camped demanding his reinstatement.
An AFP correspondent counted 37 bodies in an Islamist-run field hospital at the mosque, and the emergency services said other hospitals received an additional 29 corpses.
Saturday’s violence came after mass rival demonstrations in Cairo and other parts of Egypt the night before.
Witnesses told AFP that security forces had fired live bullets but the interior ministry insisted that only tear gas was used. It blamed the clashes on stone-throwing Islamists on the road to the airport.
Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim had warned that pro-Morsi demonstrations would be dispersed “in a legal fashion” and “as soon as possible”. He called on protestors to “come to their senses” and go home.
A Muslim Brotherhood statement however, said the “inhuman massacre” had only strengthened their resolve to peacefully resist the “coup d’etat”.
By midday, medical workers began ferrying bodies wrapped in white shrouds to hospitals, carrying them on blood-soaked stretchers past furious Morsi loyalists.
Some wept and women ululated as each body was taken from the makeshift morgue in a marble-floored section of the mosque.
The health ministry said 748 people had been injured on Friday and Saturday, including 269 at Rabaa al-Adawiya.
The Cairo violence was the deadliest since 53 Morsi supporters were killed outside the Republican Guard headquarters in the capital on July 8.
Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the grand imam at Al-Azhar, Egypt’s top Sunni Muslim authority, condemned the violence, calling for an “urgent judicial investigation” and for those responsible to be punished “regardless of their affiliation”.