Cairo: Five demonstrators died in clashes between opponents and supporters of Egyptian president Mohammad Mursi around the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt’s top rescue official said early Thursday.
Mohammad Sultan told journalists that three were shot dead, while nearly 446 others were wounded.
Another two demonstrator died after being hit by buckshot, the official MENA news agency reported Mashiyet el-Bakri hospital chief Milad Ismail as saying.
Activists reported that a girl was among those killed.
It was the worst violence in Egypt since Morsi became the country’s first Islamist president in June.
He drew the wrath of the opposition and many in the magistrature by assuming exceptional powers under a November 22 decree.
Allies and foes of Morsi late Wednesday started lobbing fire bombs and rocks at each other in the plush Heliopolis neighbourhood in a Cairo suburb, with shots ringing out early Thursday.
In an apparent response to a call from Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood, hundreds flocked to the precincts of the presidential palace Wednesday evening in the quarter of Heliopolis where opponents had camped out to protest the Islamist leader’s decree expanding his powers. The rivals hurled stones and petrol bombs at each other.
Opponents said Mursi’s supporters had attacked them and removed their tents while police stayed away.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party accused opponents of attacking their “peaceful” rally. “If each group is allowed to set up tents in front of state institutions, we will be in a state of chaos, not revolution,” added the party.
Many of the opposition had left and a few hundred protesters remained outside the palace.
The violence spread beyond the capital, with protesters torching the offices of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood in the Mediterranean port city of Ismailiya and in Suez, witnesses said.
Meanwhile, Amr al-Leithi, Seif Abdul Fatah and Ayman al-Sayad announced quitting their posts as presidential advisors in protest against Mursi’s sweeping new powers. Three other presidential advisors had earlier resigned for the same reason.
The opposition has accused Mursi of power grab and spurned his call for dialogue to defuse the crisis, the worst since he took office in late June.
Opposition leader Mohammad Al Baradei said late Wednesday there would be no talks before Mursi rescinds his decree and suspend a call for a public vote on a controversial constitution.
“All possible means, including a general strike will be taken to bring about the cancellation of the constitutional declaration,” added Al Baradei, who was a major catalyst in the revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak almost two years ago. Al Bardei was speaking following crisis talks with other leaders of the opposition National Salvation Front in Cairo.
Mursi has said his measures are temporary until a new constitution is approved and an elected parliament is in place.