CAIRO: Egypt stumbled deeper into turmoil after a national holiday celebrating the military turned to mayhem, leaving 51 dead across the country and exposing the deep divisions plaguing the nation.
The high death toll in Sundays clashes between security forces and Islamist protesters came as crowds from Egypts two rival camps supporters of the ousted Islamist president, Mohammed Mursi, and backers of the military that deposed him poured into the streets and turned on each other.
Several neighbourhoods of the capital, Cairo, resembled combat zones after street battles that raged for hours.
Mursis supporters fired birdshot and threw firebombs at police who responded with gunshots and tear gas. Streets were left strewn with debris, and the air was thick with tear gas and smoke from burning fires, as the crack of gunfire rang out.
An Associated Press photographer saw nine bodies lying on the floor of a clinic in the Cairo district of Dokki, scene of some of the heaviest clashes. Most of the bodies had gunshot wounds to the head or chest.
It was the highest death toll in a single day in violence in Egypt since August 14, when security forces raided two sit-in protest camps by Mursis supporters in Cairo, killing hundreds.
Even as fighting continued in the streets, the military went ahead with lavish celebrations for the holiday marking the 40th anniversary of the start of the 1973 Mideast war with Israel.
On Sunday evening, a concert was aired live on state TV from a military-run Cairo stadium where pop stars from Egypt, Lebanon and the Gulf sang anthems to the army and dancers twirled on stage before a cheering crowd. Military chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah El Sissi, other top brass and interim President Adly Mansour attended the show. There are those who think the military can be broken, el-Sissi said in an address at the concert. You see the Pyramids? The military is like the pyramids, because the Egyptian people are on its side.
The street battles were the latest chapter in the turmoil roiling Egypt since the ouster in February 2011 of autocrat Hosni Mubarak. The new violence is certain to set back efforts by the interim, military-backed government to revive the economy, especially the vital tourism sector, and bring order to the streets of Cairo, where crime and lawlessness have been rife.
Mursi was Egypts first civilian and first freely elected president, succeeding four since the early 1950s who hailed from a military background. But after a year in office, Mursi was faced by massive protests demanding his ouster, accusing his Muslim Brotherhood of taking over power and on July 3, El Sissi removed him. Agencies
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