Looters ransack Egyptian antiques museum and snatch priceless artefacts
- Museum in the Upper Egyptian city of Minya was broken into on Thursday
- Ministry accused Muslim Brotherhood supporters of breaking in
- Morsi supporters fought a gunbattle with security forces in a Cairo mosque
- The interim PM has proposed legally dissolving the Brotherhood
- Friday was fourth day of violence, which has killed almost 800 peop
By JILL REILLY
Egypt’s famous Malawi National Museum has been ransacked, looted and smashed up by vandals in another example of the recent unrest in the country.
Photos of the damaged artefacts and empty display cases were released this afternoon as supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi fought a gunbattle with security forces in a Cairo mosque.
According to a statement made by the Ministry of Antiquities, the museum, in the Upper Egyptian city of Minya, was allegedly broken into and some artifacts were damaged and stolen on Thursday evening.
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Break in: Damaged objects lie on the floor and in broken cases in the Malawi Antiquities Museum after it was ransacked and looted
Stolen: Some artifacts were damaged and stolen, according to a statement made by the Ministry of Antiquities
Blame: The ministry¿s official statement accords pro-Mursi supporters the blame for the break in
The ministry’s official statement accused Muslim Brotherhood supporters of breaking into the museum.
Meanwhile this afternoon armed police moved into n a Cairo mosque under seige, while Egypt’s army-backed government, facing deepening chaos, considered banning his Muslim Brotherhood group.
Loss: ‘It is a great loss and I am really saddened by what has happened to such a museum,’ Minister of State of Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim said
Ransacked: Rows of display cases are broken and empty at the Malawi Antiquities Museum
The ruins of the Evangelical Church of Malawi after it was ransacked, looted and burned on Thursday by an angry mob
Attack: In the province of Minya south of Cairo, protesters attacked two Christian churches, security officials said
Witnesses saw gunmen shoot from a window of the al-Fath mosque, where Brotherhood followers sheltered during ferocious confrontations in the heart of Cairo on Friday.
Another gunman was shown on television shooting from the mosque’s minaret and soldiers outside returning fire.
It was not clear if anyone died in the latest clash – the fourth day of violence in Egypt, which has killed almost 800 people.
With anger rising on all sides, Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi proposed disbanding the Brotherhood, raising the stakes in a bloody struggle between the state and Islamists for control of the Arab world’s most populous nation.
“We are not facing political divisions, we are facing a war being waged by extremists developing daily into terrorism,” presidential political adviser Mostafa Hegazy told reporters.
If Beblawi’s proposal to disband the Brotherhood is acted on, it would force the group underground and could herald large-scale arrests against its members placed outside the law.
Policemen stand guard inside a room of the al-Fath mosque
Waiting: Protesters supporting ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi wait inside al-Fath mosque, at Ramses Square in Cairo
Trouble: Witnesses say that Egyptian security forces have stormed the mosque after firing tear gas
Tense: Police officers stand guard at one of the doors to al-Fath mosque
Grim: A stretcher covered with a white blanket is carried out of al-Fateh mosque on Ramses Square, Cairo
Many Western allies have denounced the killings, including the United States, alarmed by the chaos in a country which has a strategic peace treaty with Israel and operates the Suez Canal, a major artery of world trade.
However, Saudi Arabia threw its weight behind the army-backed government on Friday, accusing its old foes in the Muslim Brotherhood of trying to destabilise Egypt.
The health ministry said 173 people died in clashes across Egypt on Friday, including 95 in central Cairo, after the Brotherhood called a “Day of Rage” to denounce a crackdown on its followers on Wednesday that killed at least 578 people.
Cordon: Egyptians security forces provide a cordon around the al-Fatah mosque
More than 50 people were killed a day earlier in violence across Egypt, according to security sources
Demonstrators in support of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi wait by the barricaded door inside
A pro-Morsi supporter is escroted from the mosque
Refuge: The siblings, who are on holiday in Egypt, sought refuge in the mosque after 80 people were killed during violent clashes between supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi and the security forces in Cairo yesterday
Clashes: An estimated 700 Morsi supporters took refuge in the mosque following clashes with security forces in the area
FCO: ‘AVOID ALL BUT ESSENTIAL TRAVEL’
The FCO is advising Britons to avoid all but essential travel to Egypt, except the Red Sea resorts, despite holiday makers being confined to their hotel grounds in one resort in the area.
But other European countries have taken a firmer approach, with Germany advising its nationals not to travel to the country.
The FCO said it is advising British nationals to check its travel advice, and is urging people to obey regulations set out by local authorities and any curfew, if they are affected.
UK travel organisation Abta has estimated that there are currently around 40,000 Britons in Egypt.
UK tour operators Thomson and First Choice have 11,769 British holidaymakers in Egypt, many of them in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh and the others in neighbouring Hurghada, Taba and Marsa Alam, while Thomas Cook has several thousand UK tourists in the Red Sea resorts at the moment.
Thomson Airways has four return flights to Sharm el Sheikh today, and five return flights to Sharm el Sheikh tomorrow.
In light of the FCO travel advice, Thomson Cruises has changed its itinerary for an Egypt and the Holy Land voyage on the Thomson Celebration vessel starting next Monday.
Fifty-seven policemen died over the past three days, the interior ministry said.
Among those killed on Friday was a son of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie, shot dead close to al-Fath mosque, which was rapidly transformed into a makeshift morgue and a refuge for hundreds of Mursi’s supporters, looking to escape the bloodshed.
The building was surrounded overnight and police fired volleys of tear gas into the carpeted prayer hall in the early afternoon, filling the hall with billowing white smoke and leaving those inside gasping for breath.
Egyptian authorities said they had rounded up more than 1,000 Islamists after Friday’s protests, showing one handcuffed man on television with an automatic gun on his lap.
Security sources said Mohamed Al-Zawahiri, the brother of al Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri, had also been detained.
“Friday was a very bad, ugly day. There were attacks on police stations, ministries. The situation is very bad,” the prime minister told reporters.
“There will be no reconciliation with those whose hands have been stained with blood and who turned weapons against the state and its institutions.”
The Brotherhood was officially dissolved by Egypt’s military rulers in 1954, but registered itself as a non-governmental organisation in March in a response to a court case brought by opponents of the group who were contesting its legality.
Egyptian army armoured vehicles are deployed near the mosque
Mess: Debris is scattered inside the al-Fatah mosque after Muslim Brotherhood supporters barricaded themselves inside overnight
Defiant: As most people ran away, one man remained standing directly in front of a tank with his arms raised
Gunned down: The demonstrator (seen in background) appears to be struck repeatedly struck by bullets, and then falls down
Aftermath: The alleged shooting victim is seen rolling over on the ground next to another man
Fact or fiction? NBC News foreign correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin tweeted that the news agency Storyful had confirmed the video’s authenticity
Founded in 1928, the movement has deep roots in the provinces and has a legally registered political arm – the Freedom and Justice Party – which was set up in 2011 after unrest that led to the downfall of the autocratic Hosni Mubarak.
The Brotherhood won all five elections that followed the toppling of Mubarak, and Mursi governed the country for a year until he was undermined by mammoth rallies called by critics who denounced his rule as incompetent and partisan.
Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi says he removed Mursi from office on July 3 to protect the country from possible civil war.
Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad said the police had started to arrest the sons and daughters of the organisation’s leadership in an effort to gain leverage.
Despite the bloodshed, the Islamist group has urged its supporters to take to the streets every day this coming week, but there was no sign of large rallies by Saturday afternoon.
Fleeing for their lives: Friday’s death toll has now reached 64 across Egypt, including eight police officers,
‘Day of Rage’: Hundreds have been reported injured and around have been 50 killed in today’s protests in the Egyptian capital
Street battle: A Morsi supporter is taken from the crowd after he was injured during a protest outside Al-Fath Mosque in Ramses Square, in Cairo
Home-made weaponry: Morsi protesters throw rocks, lamps and what appears to be kitchen appliances, near the Four Seasons hotel in Garden City area of Cairo
Twitter user @sarahcarr posted this picture of people jumping off 6 October bridge near a police station after the large crown was trapped by armed police
“Our rejection of the coup regime has become an Islamic, national and ethical obligation that we can never abandon,” said the Brotherhood, which has accused the military of plotting the downfall of Mursi to regain the levers of power.Iraq, wracked by its own civil strife, urged restraint.
“We were shocked by the huge number of casualties that resulted from breaking up the protests and by the excessive use of power,” Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari told U.S-based al Hurra television.
Worryingly for the Egyptian army, violence was reported across the country on Friday, with deaths reported in at least eight cities and towns, suggesting it might struggle to impose control on the vast, largely desert state.
Temporary care: The Al-Fath mosque was turned into a field hospital after armed police opened fire outside Azbakeya Police Station
Residents and protesters: More prominently than during earlier violence, there were street battles between Morsi supporters and vigilante residents rather than police
The government said 12 churches had been attacked and burned on Friday, blaming the Islamists for the destruction.
Foreign journalists in Cairo said they faced regular harassment as they tried to report on the clashes, with a number detained by police and civilian vigilante groups unhappy with coverage of the disturbances.
The crisis has prompted widespread condemnation, and a demonstration against the massacre will be held at the Egyptian embassy in London today.
Foreign Secretary William Hague yesterday discussed the situation with Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, and last night the Foreign Office (FCO) said in a statement: ‘The UK continues to call for an end to violence and for a return to peaceful dialogue.
‘FCO ministers remain actively engaged in support of these objectives with their regional and international counterparts.
Fury: Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood supporters walk towards Ramses square in Cairo as they take part in a ‘march of anger’. Violent clashes have already left 17 people dead
Desperate: Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood supporters carry a wounded protestor in Cairo’s Ramses square
Fury: Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Sanaa shout slogans during the rally in protest at the recent violence in Egypt
‘We will continue to work closely with our EU and international partners over the coming days in our ongoing efforts to help the Egyptian people achieve peace and a return to democratic processes.’
Earlier David Cameron and French president Francois Hollande called for an emergency meeting of European Union foreign ministers to discuss the deepening crisis.
In a telephone call, the two leaders said the EU needed to consider steps it could take to persuade both sides to end the violence and enter dialogue.
‘They agreed that the EU should be clear and united in its message: the violence must end immediately and there needs to be a political dialogue, involving all sides, that leads to genuine democracy,’ a No 10 spokesman said.
The Prime Minister and the president said they wanted a meeting of EU foreign ministers to be called for next week.
‘They should consider what measures the EU can take to make clear that the violence and repression is unacceptable and to best encourage leaders from all sides to re-engage in dialogue and to chart a peaceful way forward for their country,’ the spokesman said.
Mr Cameron also raised the issue in a telephone call with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso primarily to discuss the situation on Spain’s border with Gibraltar.
Unstable: Protestors run away from tear gas during clashes in Cairo
Angry: Supporters of Morsi throw stones at a gasoline station that belongs to the Egyptian Army in Cairo
The Popular Current, a leftist anti-Morsi group, said they were ‘astounded’ by how some in the international community have denounced Wednesday’s move against the Islamist protest camps as ‘state violence against civilians.’
The statement reflected widespread sentiment that the Cairo sit-ins had to be dispersed after the government issued warnings to protesters over the past several weeks.
The government, bolstered by wealthy Arab Gulf states opposed to the Brotherhood, has branded the crackdown on Islamists as part of a wider fight against ‘terrorists’.
Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, whose country has pledged billions in aid to interim leaders in Egypt, said the kingdom stood by the country in its fight against ‘terrorism and strife’ – a thinly veiled reference to the Brotherhood.
Egypt’s military-backed government released a statement Friday accusing ‘terrorist groups’ and ‘outlaws’ of confronting security forces, which it said must ‘stand together against a terrorist plot.’
The interim Cabinet authorized police to use of deadly force against anyone targeting police and state institutions a day earlier.
Egyptian state television showed footage of armed Brotherhood supporters under the banner headline Egypt Fights Terrorism.
The Brotherhood’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, said in a statement Friday that the group is not backing down.
‘We are not only dealing with the disbandment of a sit-in, but with the extermination of the Egyptian people to subject them to military rule with steel and fire,’ the group said in a statement, warning that differences will deepen.
The international community has urged both sides to show restraint and end the turmoil engulfing the nation.
The European Union’s foreign policy chief Baroness Ashton said Friday that the death toll over the last few days is ‘shocking’ and that responsibility weighs heavily on the interim government and the wider political leadership in Egypt.
Aftermath: Egyptian soldiers and people sift through debris spread out by the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo’s Nasr City, Egypt