world :Egypt mosque stand-off continues after street battle

A tense stand-off at Cairo’s Al-Fath mosque continued on Saturday, as Egyptian security forces surrounded the place of worship where as many as 1,000 protesters took refuge overnight after Friday’s deadly clashes.

Egyptian security forces surrounded a Cairo mosque full of supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi on Saturday as protesters planned fresh marches after street battles left more than 80 dead.

The tense stand-off at the Al-Fath mosque came after bloody clashes killed 83 people nationwide and resulted in the arrest of more than 1,000 alleged supporters of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.

The crackdown has divided Egyptians as never before in recent history, splintering the army-installed interim government and inviting international censure.

One protester said nearly 1,000 people were trapped in the mosque, which had earlier held the bodies of more than 20 people killed in Friday’s clashes.

Television footage showed troops inside the mosque apparently trying to persuade the protesters to give themselves up.

A protester inside the mosque told AFP by telephone that they were demanding they not be arrested, or attacked by hostile civilians who appeared to be gathered outside the mosque.

“Thugs tried to storm the mosque but the men barricaded the doors,” another protester inside the mosque told AFP earlier.

It was not clear whom she meant by “thugs.”

Security officials quoted by the official MENA news agency said that “armed elements” had been shooting at security forces and police from inside the mosque.

Morsi’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) pleaded for another “massacre” to be avoided after at least 578 people were killed across the country on Wednesday when police cleared protest camps set up by loyalists of the former president, deposed by the military on July 3.