Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which organised the sit-ins in the capital, Cairo, that were broken up by security forces with a heavy loss of life, has called for a “March of Anger” after Friday prayers, raising fears of more violence and bloodshed.
A defiant and uncompromising Muslim Brotherhood, to which ousted President Mohammed Morsi belongs, wants him reinstated to reverse the coup staged by the military.
Television broadcasts show the security agencies ready to counter any violence.
The UN Security Council, which held an emergency session on Thursday, has called for maximum restraint from the two sides – the government and Muslim Brotherhood.
The official death toll in Wednesday’s forced eviction of protesters from the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in Nasr city in the east of Cairo and the Nahda Square has climbed further to 638. More than 40 police officers and three journalists also died and about 4,000 people were injured.
The Muslim Brotherhood maintains that more than 2,000 people were “massacred” and has vowed to continue with its protests until Morsi is freed. He has not been seen in public since his overthrow on 3 July.
The interim government says it holds the Muslim Brotherhood responsible for the violence.
Burial of the dead began on Thursday with local television showing grieving relatives identifying the bodies wrapped in white shrouds and carrying them off for burial.
The military-led government, in a swift and uncompromising reaction to the renewed violence on Thursday, said the security forces had been instructed “to use live ammunition in the face of any attacks on establishments”.
Violence has been reported in Cairo and Alexandria, the second largest city in the North African country, and other cities. Government buildings and churches have been torched.
The country is under a state of emergency for one month while a night curfew is in force.
The bloodshed started on Wednesday when bulldozers moved in against the protesters at the two camps at Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque and the Nahda Square.
Teargas was fired to force out the tens of thousands of supporters of Morsi, who had been demanding his reinstatement since his removal by the military on 3 July.
PANA reports that diplomatic moves by the European Union and the US to peacefully resolve the crisis failed.
The interim government has justified its action as “necessary” to clear the sites, but it has incurred heavy international condemnation for its action because of the bloodshed and fears that the deeply polarised country was heading dangerously to a civil war.
The US, Germany, France, European Union and UN are among institutions and countries that have condemned the bloodletting in Egypt.
US President Barack Obama, in his first reaction on Thursday, strongly condemned the violence and announced the cancellation of joint military exercises between the two countries.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also condemned, in the strongest terms, the violence and urged all Egyptians to focus on promoting inclusive reconciliation.
The PANA correspondent in New York, quoting a UN statement, reported that the UN chief regretted the use of force by the Egyptian authorities to respond to the ongoing demonstrations.
The military ousted Morsi after days of a sit-in at Tahrir Square in Cairo by tens of thousands of people who accused him of pursuing an agenda for the Muslim Brotherhood instead of pushing the country forward.
Army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, in a nationwide television broadcast on 3 July, announced the removal of Morsi from power and the suspension of the constitution.
Morsi was accused of putting his religious priorities before the development of the country.
The African Union (AU) has suspended Egypt’s membership of the 54-member bloc, saying the overthrow of President Morsi constituted an unconstitutional change of government, which is prohibited by the AU Constitutive Act.