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Egypt braces for further clashes

Demonstrations on the day the Muslim Brotherhood is calling a ‘Friday of anger’ have commenced.

FILE: Supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi atop a wall during a rally outside the headquarters of the Republican Guard in Cairo on 9 July 2013. Picture: AFP

CAIRO - Midday prayers have been completed in Egypt and a nationwide 'day of rage' will now get underway following this week's deadly clashes which officials say left at least 638 people dead.

The day is being called a 'Friday of anger' by supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood party.

Supporters have come out in force this week against the interim government and military powers which they believe unlawfully took control of the country.

At least 28 marches are planned across the country, starting from the main mosques and ending up at government buildings.

The majority of the demonstrations will take place in the capital, Cairo.

The Brotherhood has appealed to its supporters to march peacefully, but the heavily-armed military presence at all the entrances and exits of huge squares across the country shows that the army is not taking chances.

Egyptian authorities have also given police the go-ahead to use deadly force to protect themselves and key state institutions.

Among Egyptians and international spectators, there remains a strong feeling that violence and clashes could easily erupt again.

There are fears the country will see a repeat of the violence after police moved in with deadly force to take down protest camps set up by supporters of Morsi in the Egyptian capital on Wednesday.

Morsi's detention, meanwhile, has been extended by 30 days to coincide with the month-long state of emergency imposed by the interim government.

Meanwhile, funerals have been taking place throughout the day for the hundreds of dead, though many bodies remain burnt beyond recognition and stay laid out on the floor of the Iman Mosque in Cairo.

Some of the bereaved families have told Eyewitness News they are being pressurised to officially state that their loved ones committed suicide. They are told that only then will they be given death certificates.

GLOBAL CONDEMNATION

On Thursday, United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has called on all sides in Egypt to "step back from the brink of disaster."

On the same day, US President Barack Obama condemned the on-going violence in the country, saying Egyptians deserved better.

Breaking his silence and joining the growing international condemnation of the violence, Obama said some US arrangements with Egypt would be put on hold.

"While we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back. As a result, this morning we notified the Egyptian government that we are cancelling our biannual joint military exercise which was scheduled for next month."

The US leader said when the military took power after Morsi was ousted, there was an opportunity for a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

"Instead, we've seen a more dangerous path taken through arbitrary arrests, a broad crackdown on Mr Morsi's associations and supporters and now, tragically, violence that's taken the lives of hundreds of people and wounded thousands more."

The US is seen as a long-standing ally of the Egyptian military.

In a surprise statement on Thursday, the Egyptian ambassador to South Africa said there were no divisions in Egypt.

Ambassador Sharif Naguib said the events in his country were being taken out of context.

*Additional reporting by Reuters

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