Egypt crisis: Huge rival rallies as Morsi is accused

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Media caption,
The BBC's Jim Muir says the allegations make Mr Morsi's detention formal

Huge rallies by supporters and opponents of Egypt's ousted president have continued through the night with five people killed in Alexandria.

In what is seen as a trial of strength, supporters of Mohammed Morsi filled the streets around a mosque in Cairo to condemn his removal by the army.

Army supporters converged on Tahrir Square, just a few miles away.

The detained ex-leader has been formally accused of conspiring with the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Early on Saturday, Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim said the sit-in protest by Morsi supporters at the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo would be "brought to an end soon and in a legal manner".

He gave no details but said local residents had complained about the encampment.

Later reports said clashes had broken out in the area and a field hospital was flooded with casualties, but this could not be confirmed.

Earlier this week, army chief Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi urged people to take to the streets to give the military a mandate for its intervention in removing Mr Morsi and establishing an interim government.

Since Mr Morsi, the country's first democratically elected president, was ousted on 3 July, dozens of people have died in clashes between his supporters and opponents.

Militants have also staged deadly attacks in the Sinai peninsula. Unconfirmed reports spoke of an attack on security forces in the town of Sheikh Zuwayid on Friday.

Image caption,
Demonstrators marched into central Cairo in response to calls from the military for a show of solidarity
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As darkness fell, jubilant supporters of the army remained in Cairo's Tahrir Square
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They were flashing Victory signs at the army helicopters buzzing the capital
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The army supporters gathered on Tahrir Square, the focus of political protests since the fall of Hosni Mubarak
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Armoured vehicles deployed near the square as the army warned it would not tolerate violence
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Supporters of Mohammed Morsi have turned out in force
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One Morsi supporter held a poster of the deposed president in his mouth
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The Morsi supporters held Friday Muslim prayers in the street
Image caption,
These demonstrators confronted Morsi supporters in the city of Alexandria

'Sisi out!'

At least five people died and at least 72 were injured when clashes broke out between rival demonstrators in the country's second city Alexandria, state media report.

Some of the injured reportedly suffered gunshot wounds in the fighting, which began when Morsi and Sisi supporters confronted each other after Friday prayers.

As darkness fell, street battles appeared to be continuing as police struggled to contain the violence with tear gas.

In Cairo, 11 people were injured in clashes between rival groups in the Shubra district, security sources say. The violence appears to have involved stone-throwing.

Tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of army supporters had gathered on Tahrir Square, the BBC's Jim Muir reported from the scene.

The square was full of people in boisterous, jubilant mood, saluting low-flying army helicopters with green laser pens and letting off fireworks, he said.

Late on Friday, a huge crowd of Morsi supporters filled streets around Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, where they have been holding a sit-in protest.

"Sisi out! Morsi is president! Down with the army!" they chanted.

Correspondents said the mood among the Morsi supporters around the mosque had been calm and stewards were searching demonstrators to ensure no weapons were brought to the rally.

Accusations 'ridiculous'

Mr Morsi is being held over allegations of links with Palestinian militants Hamas and plotting attacks on jails in the 2011 uprising that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak, it was announced earlier on Friday.

He is to be questioned for an initial 15-day period, a judicial order said.

The order issued on Friday is the first official statement on Mr Morsi's legal status since he was overthrown and placed in custody at an undisclosed location.

The judicial order says the former president is suspected of conspiring with Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip and has strong links with Mr Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, during the uprising against Mr Mubarak.

He is accused of colluding with the Palestinian group to storm police stations and jails, "setting fire to one prison and enabling inmates to flee, including himself, as well as premeditated killing of officers, soldiers and prisoners".

Mr Morsi and several Muslim Brotherhood leaders were freed during a breakout at a Cairo prison in January 2011.

Our correspondent says the order provides legal cover for the continued detention at a time when the UN and Western powers are calling for Mr Morsi to be released or properly charged.

Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Gehad el-Haddad described the accusations as "ridiculous". He told Reuters news agency that the order marked the return of the "old regime".

Hamas itself said there was not a shred of evidence of its involvement in the prison break.

Mr Morsi narrowly won the presidential election in June 2012 but his opponents accused him of trying to impose an Islamist agenda on the country.