Egyptian security forces have surrounded a mosque in central Cairo after clashes between police and protesters left scores dead. Supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi have vowed further demonstrations.
Security forces remained in place early on Saturday around a Cairo mosque where supporters of the deposed Morsi and his Islamist Muslim Brotherhood had taken shelter.
Officials were quoted by the official MENA news agency, saying that "armed elements" had been "shooting security forces and police from inside the mosque."
However, Morsi's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) said in a statement that there were "thousands of people trapped" in the Al-Fath mosque near Ramses Square. The party urged the prevention of another "massacre" at the site after more than 200 people died at Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adiwa mosque on Wednesday.
A woman inside the mosque told the broadcaster Al Jazeera that police were trying to storm the building.
However, a reporter for the private ONTV channel said police had called on those inside the mosque to leave, promising them a "safe exit."
The government claims to be fighting terrorists, alleging that some protesters have used machine guns against civilians. The Islamists say those inside are peaceful protesters defending the legitimate election of Morsi.
The Brotherhood called for a series of daily rallies over the next six days, starting on Sunday, to protest what they claim was a brutal crackdown.
The violence at the Rabaa al-Adiwa mosque sparked nationwide clashes, with at least 578 people killed on Wednesday and Thursday. At least 55 people, including protesters and police, died in violence on Friday, as the Muslim Brotherhood called for protests in a "day of rage" aimed to denounce the force used earlier in the week.
Tear gas was fired and there were reports of gunshots soon after the demonstrations began, with the military having sealed off main squares and junctions across the city.
Deaths across the country
The Brotherhood's Islamist supporters had gathered in the city's Ramses Square, where they said 25 people were killed in clashes. Fatalities were reported in other parts of the country, with four people said to have been killed in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya and eight dead in the Nile Delta province of Dumyat.
Another five died in the southern city of Fayyoum, according to health and security officials.
Muslim Brotherhood supporters have been calling for the reinstatement of democratically-elected President Morsi, whom the Egyptian military removed from power on July 3 after public calls for his ouster. He remains imprisoned at an undisclosed location.
EU chief diplomat Catherine Ashton called on EU leaders to organize a "coordinated response" to the crisis in Egypt, calling the turn of events on Friday "shocking."
rc/ch (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)