Protests backfire

Supporters of Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi shout slogans in CairoCAIRO — Mass protests called by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood mostly failed to materialise today as the movement reeled from a bloody army crackdown on followers of ousted President Mohamed Mursi.

Troops and police had taken relatively low-key security measures before the “Friday of Martyrs” processions that were to have begun from 28 mosques in the capital after weekly prayers.

But midday prayers were cancelled at some mosques and there were few signs of major demonstrations unfolding in Cairo.

“We are not afraid; it’s victory or death,” said Mohamed Abdel Azim, a retired oil engineer who was among about 100 people marching slowly from a mosque near Cairo University.

“They intend to strike at Muslims,” the grey-bearded Azim said. “We’d rather die in dignity than live in oppression. We’ll keep coming out until there’s no one left.”

Some marchers carried posters of Mursi, who was toppled by army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on July 3 after huge demonstrations against his rule. “No to the coup,” they chanted.

Egypt has endured the bloodiest civil unrest in its modern history since August 14 when police destroyed protest camps set up by Mursi’s supporters in Cairo to demand his reinstatement.

The violence has alarmed Egypt’s Western allies, but US President Barack Obama acknowledged that even a decision to cut off US aid to Cairo might not influence its military rulers.

Some US lawmakers have called for a halt to the $1.5 billion a year in mostly military assistance to Egypt.

“The aid itself may not reverse what the interim government does,” Obama said. “But I think what most Americans would say is that we have to be very careful about being seen as aiding and abetting actions that we think run contrary to our values and our ideals.”

He said the United States was re-evaluating its ties with Egypt. “There’s no doubt that we can’t return to business as usual, given what’s happened,” he said.

The United States has nurtured an alliance with Egypt since it signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979. Military cooperation includes privileged US access to the Suez Canal. (Reuters)

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