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Egyptian Forces Clear Mosque; Nighttime Protests Erupt

Egyptian security forces have cleared most protesters from a Cairo mosque, ending a tense standoff that included eruptions of gunfire.

Security forces raided the al-Fatah Mosque where supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi sought refuge Saturday after Friday's "Day of Rage" protests led to clashes in the capital and elsewhere.

Arab news media broadcast video showing security forces shooting at the mosque, and scenes of chaos inside the building as people took cover. There were also reports of at least one person firing shots from the mosque's minaret.

Meanwhile, large crowds of Morsi supporters took to the streets Saturday in Cairo, Alexandria and several other cities, in defiance of a nighttime curfew. Video has shown chanting demonstrators waving flags and posters of the deposed leader.

VOA correspondent Elizabeth Arrott, in Cairo, says neither police nor civilians appear to be at ease.

"There is a palpable sense of not knowing who is friend or foe at this point. Because everyone has been disbursed, because of the violence, people are very, very angry and very nervous. People are driving carefully and trying to move quickly and really not be overtly displaying. One of the things, for example, is that the police in most neighborhoods I have been through, they have changed out of their police uniforms and into their jalabiya because of the fear of like drive-by shootings and there have been reports of police being killed in drive-by shootings in different parts of the city."

Hazem el-Beblawi, named interim prime minister after the military deposed and detained Mr. Morsi in early July, said the government is working to achieve "harmony and reconciliation."

But, he added, that would not include those whose "hands are stained with blood." An official spokesman said government leaders are considering possible legal action to outlaw the Muslim Brotherhood.

The group was banned for many years under the regime led by former president Hosni Mubarak, but gained freedom to operate in public after the Arab Spring revolution that toppled Mubarak.

At a separate news conference, senior government adviser Mostafa Hegazy told reporters Egypt is facing a "war by the forces of extremism."

"We will combat extremism, and we will combat terrorism, not only by security measures, but by the rule of law, making sue that we have the proper framework of human rights established, and by making sure that we are continuing our proper patch to democracy as we promised and we will fulfill."

The government said Friday's carnage left 173 people dead - most of them in Cairo - and more than 1,000 injured. A spokesman said 57 security force officers were killed. Overall, more than 700 people have been killed during the past week.

The pro-Morsi National Alliance for Supporting Legitimacy put Friday's death toll at 213. The group charged that government aircraft fired on peaceful demonstrators.

The government has accused the Muslim Brotherhood of inflating the casualty toll, and also charged that Brotherhood supporters had attacked police stations, prisons and churches.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which contends the government has killed thousands of Egyptians this past week, says its protests will continue.

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