When President Barack Obama asked the Egyptian military to move quickly toward restoring democracy after it had forcibly removed the nation’s president and suspended the government on Wednesday, he clearly didn’t mean for them to use force.
But on Friday, Egyptian troops fired on protestors, killing three, according to several news accounts. The demonstrators had assembled outside the Republican Guard military barracks in support of the ousted President Mohammed Morsi.
The number of people killed as of Monday was 54, with the majority of them being pro-Morsi supporters.
Tens of thousands of protestors, chanting, “After sunset, President Morsi will be back in the palace,” were met with gunfire from the troops, though a military spokesperson said they fired only blanks, not live ammunition.
There appears to be no end to the conflict in a country that had its first democratically elected president removed in what many Egyptians feel was a military coup. Obama issued a statement expressing his deep concern about the developments in which both the parliament and the constitution were suspended.
“The United States continues to believe firmly that the best foundation for lasting stability in Egypt is a democratic political order with participation from all sides and all political parties—secular and religious, civilian and military,” said Obama. He also called for the immediate creation of an “inclusive and transparent process” to bring about democracy—a concept that apparently means very little in Egypt nowadays.
The military—which has stated that it has no ideological or political intentions, only the stability of the troubled nation—has ignored Obama’s plea for calm and the “arbitrary arrests of President Morsi and his supporters.”
On Friday, according to reports from the BBC and Reuters, some 2,000 people marched on the officer’s club after their Jumah prayers at a nearby Rabaa al-Adawiya Mosque, with a few of them hurling rocks at the troops. At first, the reports said, the troops fired into the air and then into the crowd, killing three and wounding several protestors.
In a statement from the National Alliance in Support of Electoral Legitimacy, the organization opposed the military action, citing that “it affirmed its full and categorical rejection of the military coup—against the president, the constitution and democratic legitimacy—and the consequent actions and effects.”
Concern was also expressed by Human Rights Watch, which viewed the action and the coup as “a return to Mubarak-era practices of mass arrests, and politically-motivated imprisonment of Muslim Brotherhood leaders will have the worst possible affect on Egypt’s political future,” it said in a statement.
Former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted two years ago. Human Rights Watch said the Freedom and Justice Party should be allowed “to fully exercise freedom of association.”
Moreover, in a related incident, the African Union suspended Egypt’s membership on the grounds of an unconstitutional change in government.