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Bitterly divided

CAIRO — Supporters of ousted President Mohamed Mursi called for protests today and Egyptians prayed there would be no repeat of clashes that have killed more than 90 people in the last week in the bitterly divided Arab nation.

More than a week after the army toppled Egypt’s first elected leader on a wave of demonstrations, Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement wants people to join it on the streets to push for his reinstatement, which now looks like a lost cause.

The streets of Cairo were quiet this morning, with separate demonstrations by Mursi supporters and opponents expected later in the day, the weekly Muslim prayer day.

Officials say Mursi is still being held at the Republican Guard compound in Cairo, where troops killed 53 Islamist protesters on Monday in violence that intensified anger his allies already felt at the military’s decision to oust him.

Four members of the security forces were also killed in that confrontation, which the military blames on “terrorists”. Mursi’s supporters call it a massacre and say those who died were praying peacefully when troops opened fire.

Many of Egypt’s 84 million people have been shocked by the shootings, graphic images of which have appeared on state and private news channels and social media. The incident occurred just three days after 35 people were killed in clashes between pro- and anti-Mursi demonstrators across the country.

“It’s a very hard time for Egyptians, to see footage of blood and violence during the holy month of Ramadan, and everyone I speak to says the same thing,” said Fateh Ali, a 54-year-old civil servant in Cairo.

“I really hope the situation gets resolved soon. I don’t think we can afford this economically or psychologically.”

The Brotherhood contends it is the victim of a military crackdown, evoking memories of its suppression under Hosni Mubarak, whose 30-year rule collapsed in an uprising in 2011.

But many of its opponents blame Islamists for the violence, and some have little sympathy for the demonstrators who died, underlining how deep the fissures in Egyptian society are.

The unrest has also raised fear over security in the lawless Sinai peninsula bordering Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip. One Egyptian policeman was killed and another wounded early on Friday when militants fired rocket-propelled grenades at checkpoints in the Sinai town of El Arish.

Egyptian state media said police arrested three Palestinian militants for attempted attacks in Sinai. (Reuters)

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