CAIRO – An American citizen and at least three other people died Friday in demonstrations in Egypt that ushered in what was expected to be days of civil conflict over the rule of President Mohammed Morsi.
At least another 65 people were injured, most of them by birdshot in Alexandria, in turmoil that included crowds burning photographs of the U.S. ambassador and calling for the return of military rule.
Across the country, crowds set fire to at least four offices belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood or its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party. At times, local news stations showed as many as nine screens of protests, both in support of and opposition to Morsi, the nation’s first democratically elected leader, whose first anniversary in office is to be marked by still more demonstrations this weekend.
Police officials in Alexandria, Egypt’s second largest city, confirmed that an American had been killed in a melee with protesters, but the identification they provided was incomplete and local news reports gave various versions of the victim’s name.
Gen. Amin Ezz al Din, the head of security in Alexandria, told McClatchy that the American, whom he described as a 21-year-old male, was fatally stabbed around 3:30 p.m. as he was filming clashes “with a small camera” between pro- and anti-Morsi protesters. Din said the American was swept up in the fight and stabbed in the chest “with some sort of machete.” Protesters dragged the victim to an ambulance, Din said, where paramedics declared him dead.
“Those who killed him and others are suspected thugs,” Din told McClatchy.
The burning of photos of U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson underscored the rising criticism that the United States faces here.
Morsi’s government has accused the United States of meddling, prosecuting 16 Americans earlier this year for working for pro-democracy organizations in the country. Now anti-Morsi forces claim Patterson has sided with the Morsi government, citing comments she made that called on Morsi opponents to seek a political solution to the country’s conflicts, rather than mount more street protests.
Perhaps the most incredible sight, however, was the appearance in Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square of protesters carrying photos of former President Hosni Mubarak, nearly two and a half years after Tahrir was the rallying place for protesters demanding Mubarak’s ouster.