London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Over 40 people were shot dead by army and police outside the barracks of the Egyptian army’s Republican Guard division in Cairo in the early hours of Monday morning, according to reports in the Egyptian media.
The victims were reportedly supporters of the ousted president Mohamed Mursi, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and were among the protesters staging a sit-in outside the building, where they believed Mursi was being held.
The Egyptian ministry of health said more than 300 people had been injured.
The military said that troops opened fire after armed gunmen tried to storm the building. A statement issued by the military said that troops had opened fire after “an armed terrorist group” attacked, killing one police officer.
However, eyewitnesses among the demonstrators told reporters that the army stormed the camp set up by the protesters during morning prayers, firing live ammunition and tear gas.
One witness, Mahmud Al-Shilli, told AFP that the firing had come from men in civilian clothes, who began shooting after the army moved in with tear gas.
The Salafist Nour party said it was pulling out of attempts to form a new transitional government in protest at the bloodshed. A spokesman said the party had “decided to withdraw immediately from all negotiations in response to the massacre.”
The Nour party was part of the coalition that endorsed the ousting of Brotherhood-backed President Mursi and who agreed on a ‘road map’ for the formation of a new government with representatives of the military, anti-Mursi protesters, and liberal and left-wing opposition parties.
Yesterday, the Nour party blocked the appointment of Mohamed El-Baradei, a senior member of the National Salvation Front, the liberal and left-wing coalition, as prime minister. It is currently unclear what impact the withdrawal of the Nour party will have on attempts to form a new government in the wake of the toppling of Mohamed Mursi and the swearing-in of the head of Egypt’s constitutional court, Adly Mansour, as interim president last week.
In a statement on his Twitter account, Baradei said an independent investigation into the killings was a “must,” adding: “Violence begets violence and should be strongly condemned.”