Islamist protesters today exchanged heavy gunfire with Egyptian security forces before the troops cleared a mosque where hundreds of supporters of deposed president Mohammed Morsi were holed up, even as the death toll in fierce street clashes rose to nearly 180.
The situation turned violent this afternoon when gunmen inside Al-Fateh mosque near Ramses Square in central Cairo fired at security forces outside. Footage on television showed security forces on the ground trading fire with a gunman in the main minaret.
Police later fired teargas and stormed the mosque, which was evacuated. Protesters who had barricaded themselves inside were dragged out and arrested.
Amid the standoff, interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi proposed legally dissolving the Muslim Brotherhood, which is demanding the reinstatement of Morsi. If it is legally dissolved, its property and assets could be seized.
Earlier, scores of protesters took those killed and wounded in yesterday's clashes to Al-Fateh mosque and refused to leave. Security personnel entered the mosque to negotiate with protesters but Muslim Brotherhood rejected a proposal to allow women to leave.
Protesters inside the mosque said they feared leaving because there were "thugs" with the security forces outside.
Speaking to al Jazeera by phone from inside the mosque, Omaima Halawa said there were about 700 people, including women and children, inside.
As the toll in yesterday's clashes rose to 173, the Brotherhood today called for a week of protests.
Brotherhood chief Mohamed Badie's son Ammar Badie was among dozens shot dead Cairo yesterday.
Since Wednesday, over 800 people have died in clashes that erupted after security forces stormed two camps set up by Morsi loyalists in Cairo to protest his ouster on July 3.
Egyptian officials said over 1,000 Islamists were arrested after yesterday's protests, dubbed the "Friday of Rage" by the Brotherhood.
"The number of Muslim Brotherhood elements arrested reached 1,004," the interior ministry said in a statement
Authorities also arrested the brother of al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, a security official said. Mohammed al-Zawahiri, leader of the ultraconservative Jihadi Salafist group, was detained at a checkpoint in Giza.
The Brotherhood had established a makeshift field hospital in the mosque at Ramses square.
"Our rejection of the coup regime has become an Islamic, national and ethical obligation that we can never abandon," said the Brotherhood, which has accused Egypt's military of plotting the downfall of Morsi last month to regain the levers of power.
The crackdown has divided Egyptians as never before in recent history, splintering the army-installed government and inviting international censure.
An interim cabinet, installed by the army after it removed Morsi during rallies against his rule, has refused to back down in the face of the protests. It has authorised police to use live ammunition to defend themselves and state installations.
Bader Abdel Atty, a spokesman for the Egyptian foreign ministry, defended the actions of the security forces in an interview with al Jazeera, saying that protesters were armed with machine guns.
He dismissed international condemnation of the violence and said Egypt would accept no external interference.
Egypt's interim leaders have imposed a state of emergency with dusk-to-dawn curfews in the capital and other areas. The interior ministry says police have been authorised to use live ammunition "within a legal framework".
The Muslim Brotherhood has been on the streets since July 3 after the army deposed Morsi - Egypt's first democratically elected president - last month and installed an interim government.
© Copyright PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of any PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.