Egypt uprising

protesters overrun and loot headquarters of the muSLim brotherhood

CAIRO — The headquarters of Egypt’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood was overrun and looted today as President Mohamed Mursi refused to heed millions who took to the streets demanding he resign.

The Islamist movement, which operated underground until the overthrow of autocratic President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, said it was looking at how to defend itself.

Cities were quiet after yesterday’s mass rallies that were bigger than anything seen since the Arab Spring uprising, but the ransacking of the Brotherhood’s office highlighted deepening political polarisation, prompting the movement to talk of acting in self-defence.

Four non-Brotherhood government ministers resigned from the cabinet, apparently in sympathy with the protesters, underlining a sense of isolation for the party that won a series of elections last year.

How the crisis ends may depend on whether mass protests can be sustained, whether there is more violence and whether other forces including the military, clerics and worried foreign powers push the feuding factions to negotiate a compromise.

For those who declared the protests a continuation of the revolution that felled Mubarak, images of young men waving national flags at the scorched and shattered windows of the Brotherhood compound recalled the fall of Mubarak’s ruling party offices, whose charred hulk still looks out over the Nile.

Eight people died in a night of fighting around the Brotherhood building, where guards fired on youths hurling rocks and fire bombs. A Brotherhood official said two of its members were injured.

The movement’s official spokesman told Reuters that the attack had crossed a red line of violence and among possible responses might be to revive “self-defence committees” former during the 2011 uprising. “The people will not sit silent,” Gehad El-Haddad said.

Mursi’s movement complained at the lack of police protection, which can only heighten its sense of being under siege from both the liberal opposition and state officialdom inherited from the old regime. (Reuters)

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