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Standoff in Cairo mosque continues, gunfire heard

Gunfire has been heard outside of a Cairo mosque where Muslim Brotherhood supporters remain holed up following clashes that left more than 170 people dead. The Brotherhood has pledged to stage further protests.

News agencies on Saturday reported that gunshots had been heard outside of the Al-Fath mosque in the Egyptian capital's Ramses Square. It wasn’t immediately clear who initiated the shooting, but witnesses said shots had come from various directions.

There are some indications that this came as some of the hundreds of people holed up inside the mosque were leaving.

Most reports put the number of people in the mosque in the hundreds, but a statement released by the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) said there were "thousands of people trapped" inside.

Earlier, there were reports that the people inside were refusing to leave for fear of being arrested.

Video footage broadcast by international news television stations showed police in riot gear standing outside of the mosque and there was a report that negotiators from the security forces had entered it and were trying to negotiate an end to the standoff.

This comes a day after 173 people were killed in clashes between supporters of deposed Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and security forces. Friday’s protests were part of a "day of rage" protest against a crackdown by the military earlier in the week.

More than 600 people were killed on Wednesday after security forces moved in to forcibly break up two pro-Morsi sit-ins.

Now Morsi's supporters are calling for a week of protests to keep up the pressure on the military and the civilian government. While the Brotherhood has repeatedly pledged that its resistance would be strictly peaceful, armed men have been seen firing from their side during clashes with security forces.

'Terrorist plot'

A statement released by the interior ministry on Saturday said that during Friday's unrest, security forces had arrested a total of 1,004 people, which the statement described as "Muslim Brotherhood elements."

An earlier statement released by the military-installed civilian government accused the Muslim Brotherhood of launching a "malicious terrorist plot."

President Morsi and his FJP led Egypt for about a year before being ousted by the military on July 3. The army then appointed the current civilian government. This came after mass protests against Morsi's administration.

This week's violence has been condemned by European countries, including Germany, as well as the United States and many other members of the international community.

pfd/jm (Reuters, AFP, dpa)