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CAIRO, May 1 (Itar-Tass) - Egyptian Air Force helicopters were hovering over Cairo throughout last night to enforce strict observance of the night-time curfew in a vast megapolis on the Nile.
Uneasy calm hang over the city of a thousand minarets since Friday evening. Each newscast is watched and listened to with alarm and hope. Friday, a day off, began quietly only to end with more fierce clashes between the supporters of the interim government and the Islamists, obsessed with the intention to restore Mohamed Morsi to the presidential seat at any cost.
The stubbornness of the Muslim Brotherhood, reluctant to accept the new rules of the game, cost Egypt more heavy losses of human life on Friday. According to official sources, the unrest left over thirty people dead, while unofficial estimates put the death toll at 70. Some of those killed were demonstrators, police and volunteers, mobilized by the Tamarrud movement, the initiator of the June 30 revolution.
Formally, the anti-government alliance on Friday evening came out with a statement to the effect “peaceful protest demonstrations” were over, as the night-time curfew took effect in Cairo. Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Jihad Haddad, speaking on behalf of the alliance, urged the Islamists to leave the streets only to come back in daytime on Saturday.
However, as follows from what Arab TV channels have been reporting, rampaging opponents of the new authorities were in no hurry to heed their leaders. As a result, 263 demonstrators were detained by police in the area of Ramses Square, where they had set fire to the building of the syndicate of Arab contractors and, if an Egyptian television report is to be believed, even tried to down one of the helicopters.
Troops managed to free the Fatih mosque in Ramses Square the Muslim Brotherhood had seized earlier. In all, 821 people have been arrested across the country. Most of the detainees carried weapons.
In El Arish militants fired rockets while storming government buildings. Extremists have committed hit-and-run raids in Ismailia, Suez, Asyut and Dumyat. There were marches by Islamists in Alexandria, Al Fayyum and Beni Suef.
In many instances Muslim Brotherhood supporters brought the bodies of their associates, killed while hurling Molotov cocktails at police cordons, into the mosques and invited reporters from friendly television channels to take pictures. In the meantime, Cairo’s Nile Television aired a video clip showing an armed extremist firing shots at army cordons from the May 15 Bridge in Cairo.
In the area of El Minya, local Muslim Brotherhood thugs and Al Gama’a al-Islamiyya radicals attacked two Christian churches and five schools, setting them on fire. A police department came under attack. Paratroopers had to be airlifted to the town of Muluwi to restore order and protect local civilians, the Misrawy news portal said. According to its sources, fourteen police were killed there and twelve terrorists neutralized.
Attacks against churches have had no effect on the stance of Egyptian clergy. The Coptic Church on Friday issued a statement to offer its wholesale support for the Egyptian Army and police in their efforts to curb violence. Church hierarchs have urged the West to impartially interpret the events in Egypt and terminate moral and political support for destructive forces encouraging terror.
The emergence toward the end of the day of street patrols of volunteers, who have been checking IDs and motor vehicles, looks an important indication of where the situation in Cairo has been moving.
“The Egyptians have responded in full seriousness to the authorities’ decisions to introduce a state of emergency,” said Egyptian analyst Jamal Qassas. He believes “the people have developed the awareness there is just no other way of stopping the country’s slide into anarchy and feud.” Popular support for that step, says Qassas, is an expression of trust towards the road map for ending the crisis that was put forward six weeks ago.
“The Muslim Brotherhood has been losing political points with each single day. To get back into history they should drop their illusions,” another local commentator, Saleh Salam, told ITAR-TASS.