Funeral clashes in Egypt push weekend’s protest death toll to 72

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Deadly clashes broke out yesterday during funerals for those who died in protests over Egypt’s ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi as his party, the Muslim Brotherhood, urged his supporters to stand fast despite 72 deaths over a blood-soaked weekend.

Meanwhile, the interim president installed by the military gave the prime minister the right to use the military to arrest civilians in what could be a prelude to a major crackdown on supporters of Islamic militants.

The weekend’s bloodshed has dashed hopes of reconciliation between the country’s two camps, sharply divided over the July 3 military coup that removed Egypt’s first freely-elected president following protests by millions of Egyptians over his Islamist agenda. Islamists refuse to compromise with the secular opposition and insist the only possible solution is to reinstate Mr Morsi. The interim leadership says it will restore democracy early next year.

Egypt’s interior minister, who is in charge of the police, also pledged to deal decisively with any attempts to destabilise the country, a thinly veiled warning to Morsi supporters who are occupying two squares in Cairo.

Officials from Morsi’s Brotherhood and their allies decried what they called a new “massacre” on Saturday morning that left 70 dead when security forces opened fire on protesters in Cairo only weeks after July 8 clashes that left more than 50 dead.

Two other men were killed and scores injured in violence that followed the funerals of two Morsi supporters yesterday in Kafr el-Zayat and Port Said. The Brotherhood claims security forces were not provoked but the Government says Islamists are deliberately provoking violence to create “martyrs” and gain sympathy..