- By David KennerDavid Kenner is the Middle East editor at Foreign Policy. He is based in Beirut, Lebanon, and has been with FP since 2009 (a long time, he knows). He worked for FP previously in Cairo, where he covered the early days of the Arab Spring, and before that in Washington. He has attended Georgetown University and the American University of Beirut and has reported from Libya, Egypt, Gaza, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq.
CAIRO — In the early morning hours of Monday, the Egyptian military opened fire on pro-Mohamed Morsy demonstrators at the Republican Guard headquarters in Cairo, where the protesters had gathered to call for the release of the deposed president. At this point, the Egyptian Health Ministry is reporting that 42 people have been killed and over 300 injured.
It is unclear what precipitated the attack. While the overwhelming majority of those killed were pro-Morsy protesters, one army officer was also reported dead in the violence. Military officials are claiming that protesters attempted to storm the military building and kidnapped two soldiers. Morsy supporters, meanwhile, say the army opened fire on the sit-in during morning prayers.
Many of the injured were taken to a field hospital at the pro-Morsy demonstration near the Rabaa al-Adaweya mosque. The area is expected to be the site of pro-Morsy protests later in the day, and the Egyptian military has moved its forces close to the sit-in — raising the potential of further clashes later in the day. Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party released a statement in response to the attack calling for an "intifada," or uprising, against those who would "steal their revolt with tanks and massacres."
The implications of this bloodshed are going to be severe — both in the political realm and on the street. Just as the attacks at Maspero or Port Said struck a blow against the post-Hosni Mubarak military government’s legitimacy, this attack threatens to seriously weaken the administration chosen to replace Morsy. President Adly Mansour, who is almost completely unknown to the Egyptian people, faces the first challenge of his administration.
The violence is already threatening to break apart the alliance between some political forces and the military. The Salafist Nour Party, which was already feuding with other opposition forces over the selection of the next prime minister, has withdrawn from any negotiations on government formation, while a spokesman said that "[i]t is as if the former regime is back fully fleshed." Secular leader Mohamed ElBaradei, meanwhile, called for an independent investigation into the events.
The Egyptian military has said that it does not want to rule directly, but today’s events make it clear just how central a role it plays in the country’s future. If such bloodshed continues, the government’s civilian veneer will be harder to maintain — and Egypt will find itself further away from democracy than ever before.