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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Video and Witness Accounts of Attack on Islamist Protesters in Cairo

As my colleagues Kareem Fahim and Mayy el Sheikh report from Cairo, the Egyptian police killed at least 65 people in an attack on an Islamist rally early Saturday.

While the interior minister claimed later that his officers “have never and will never shoot” one bullet at Egyptian citizens, some victims were killed with single gunshot wounds to the head and video, photographs and written accounts posted online by witnesses contradicted that assertion.

Sharif Kouddous, an Egyptian journalist, drew attention to video uploaded to YouTube Saturday morning by a witness named Mohamed Wasfi, who claimed to have captured the beginning of the clashes in Cairo’s Nasr City district.

Video uploaded to YouTube Saturday, said to show the start of deadly clashes in Cairo.

The footage, recorded above Nasr Street, showed police officers firing tear gas at supporters of the deposed president, Mohamed Morsi, who had marched down the road from their sit-in nearby. The video appears to show the confrontation after the protesters moved down the street, past the reviewing stand where former President Anwar el-Sadat was assassinated in 1981, and reached a police barricade near the October 6 Bridge. Despite claims of gunfire coming from the Islamist side, the video shows protesters running back down the street after the first volley of tear gas was fired directly at the crowd, and officers and men in civilian clothes walking calmly in front of the police vehicles just over a minute later.

The police released a compilation of video recorded during the subsequent clashes that showed Morsi supporters throwing rocks at the police in the dark and a man in civilian clothes firing a single blast of birdshot from a pistol during daylight hours. According to the interior ministry, that man was aiming at the police, although men dressed like civilians also fought against the Islamists alongside officers throughout the clashes.

Video of Saturday’s clashes posted on the YouTube channel of Egypt’s interior ministry.

Hours later, after journalists pointed out that the shooting victims were all on the Islamist side, the interior ministry released another 55 seconds of video, showing a badly wounded man in a hospital bed who was described as an officer shot in the head while speaking to Islamist protesters.

Throughout the day, Egyptians shared links to images of gunshots being fired from the police side. A video blogger who recorded images of the victims of the another deadly attack on Islamist protesters in the area, two weeks ago, captured video on Saturday of police officers shooting at protesters hiding behind a brick barricade across Nasr Street.

Video of shots being fired at Islamist protesters by police officers in Cairo.

Hossam el-Hamalawy, an activist blogger and journalist, pointed to video apparently recorded from behind Islamist lines during the clashes along Nasr Street later in the day that offered clear images of a masked police officer firing a rifle and a second clip that appeared to show a plainclothes officer firing a machine gun.

Video of a police officer firing a rifle during clashes with Islamist protesters in Cairo on Saturday.

Video uploaded to YouTube Saturday appeared to show a plainclothes police officer shooting at Islamist protesters in Cairo.

The activist photographer Mosa’ab Elshamy, who posted images of the clashes online as they unfolded, reported the “sound of non-stop gunshots” from the police side at about 6:30 a.m. local time.

Mr. Elshamy, who uploaded graphic photographs of the victims to Flickr, said in a brief account of what he witnessed on Twitter that he saw no armed Morsi supporters.

In a more detailed account he posted on Facebook, the photographer noted that since he arrived after the start of the clashes, he could not rule out “the possibility of them being armed earlier at night when things were more vicious and chaotic, making observing things more difficult.”

The BBC correspondent Quentin Sommerville reported that his team did hear occasional outgoing shots from the Islamist side, they only saw one man with a homemade shotgun.

Mohamed Soltan, an Egyptian-American activist who is taking part in the sit-in, and documenting it on his iPhone, also posted a number of very graphic images of the dead on Twitter. At one stage, Mr. Soltan watched as grief-stricken relatives of the dead came to identify their bodies in a makeshift field hospital.

The journalist Sharif Kouddous recorded video of some of those bodies being carried away later.

Video of Islamist protesters killed during Saturday’s attack by the security forces.