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Egypt Islamists cancel some marches amid violence fears

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi cancelled some Cairo marches Sunday for "security reasons", as the military chief vowed to face down violent protests following Egypt's bloodiest week in decades.

The Islamists said they cancelled "several marches", citing fears of vigilantes and snipers, but others went ahead as planned.

More than 750 people were killed in four days after the military and police launched a blistering crackdown on Islamist protest camps, sparking international condemnation.

In his first remarks since campaign began on Wednesday, military chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said security forces would confront further violence from protesters.

"Whoever imagines violence will make the state and Egyptians kneel must reconsider; we will never be silent in the face of the destruction of the country," Sisi told a meeting of top military and police commanders.

And at the site of at least one planned march, residents said they had gathered to forcibly prevent demonstrations.

"Several marches in Cairo have been cancelled for security reasons," said Yasmine Adel, a spokeswoman for the Anti-Coup Coalition of Morsi loyalists.

But in a separate statement, the group insisted "all nationwide marches and Cairo marches are continuing as planned" with the exception of a rally in the Roxy area of the capital.

The Islamist coalition has grown increasingly disorganised as some leaders have been arrested and others are in hiding.

At a mosque in the Dokki neighbourhood, where one march was scheduled to begin, residents gathered to prevent any protests.

"We are waiting for them. I swear we will kill them if they approach the mosque," one said.

The rallies had been expected to be a test of the strength of Morsi's loyalists after four days of deadly clashes with police.

On Saturday, police stormed a Cairo mosque where Islamists were holed up, after trading fire with gunmen inside its minaret.

On Sunday morning, the capital showed first signs of returning to normal, with traffic beginning to flow again and banks and shops reopening for the first time since Wednesday.

That was when security forces stormed two camps of Morsi supporters, sparking clashes that killed at least 578 people across the country.

In the 24 hours after that, another 173 people were killed, according to the government, putting the four-day toll at 751.

The violence has shocked the international community, but Egypt's government -- installed by the army after Morsi's July 3 ouster -- has fiercely defended its actions.

The ouster and the subsequent anti-Brotherhood crackdown, which has seen the group's top leaders detained, has left Egypt divided as never before.

Vigilantes have dragged men with beards from cars, and a mob chanted "terrorists" as Morsi supporters were dragged from a Cairo mosque at the end of the standoff on Saturday.

Hundreds of people have been arrested and there has been speculation the government could ban the Brotherhood, although the interim presidency appeared to dismiss the idea.

"We're not into the effort of dissolving anyone or preventing anyone" from taking part in politics, presidential adviser Mustafa Hegazy insisted on Saturday.

He said security forces had acted with "a huge amount of self-restraint and self-control".

According to an AFP tally, more than 1,000 people have been killed since mass demonstrations against Morsi at the end of June, among them a son of the Brotherhood's supreme guide on Friday.

Violence has also continued in the Sinai Peninsula, where a civilian, two soldiers and a policeman were killed overnight, security sources said.

The European Union said Sunday it would review ties with Egypt's army and government unless the bloodshed ends.

"The EU will urgently review in the coming days its relations with Egypt," EU leaders Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso said.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague called his Egyptian counterpart Saturday to condemn violence by both sides, and described as "unacceptable" attacks against churches.

The United States has announced the cancellation of its biannual military exercise with Egypt, and its embassy in Cairo was closed Sunday for security reasons.

The White House has stopped short of suspending $1.3 billion in annual aid, although some US lawmakers called Sunday for the funds to be cut.

But the international response has not been uniformly critical. Both Saudi Arabia and Jordan have said they back Egypt in its fight against "terrorism".

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130818/egypt-islamists-cancel-some-marches-amid-violence-fears