Thousands rally for Mursi in Cairo, clashes in rural Egypt

CAIRO (REUTERS) - Thousands of supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi rallied in a protest camp around a Cairo mosque on Friday, defying warnings from the army-installed government that they should give up and leave.

Leaders of Mr Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood mounted a stage at the Rabaa al-Adawiya site to demand that he brought back to power.

"Soldier, your place is not in politics," senior official Ahmed Aref said as the people pumped fists in the air.

Despite international concern that a violent confrontation was imminent, security forces were nowhere to be seen.

But in the rural province of Fayoum, police broke up clashes between several hundred supporters and opponents of Mr Mursi with teargas, security sources said. Seven protesters and five policemen were hurt.

And in separate incidents in the Nile Delta province of Gharbiya, four people were injured in fights between pro-Mursi protesters and residents near an army base, state-run Al-Ahram newspaper said. Thirteen Mursi supporters were arrested.

The Rabaa camp in north-east Cairo is the major potential flashpoint of the political crisis brought on by the military overthrow of the Islamist Mursi and establishment of an interim government five weeks ago.

Crowds chanted "Down with the coup, the coup is terrorism"as thousands streamed in from other mosques in columns.

Security forces have warned the protesters to leave peacefully or face action. But the camp has been turned into a virtual fortress, protected by sandbag-and-brick barricades.

"Kill as you like. We will not move from here," a preacher told worshippers at Friday prayers in the mosque. "This is a revolution. You who are present will make the decision on whether you will disperse."

Despite the clashes elsewhere, an undeclared truce seems to have taken hold at Rabaa over the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which celebrates the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and finishes on Sunday.

No police or troops could be seen in the immediate vicinity on Friday afternoon and after the speeches, the event took on a festive air, including performances of traditional dance.

Some Egyptians felt the security forces would not attack before the end of Eid as this would be sacrilegious.

But a diplomat from a European country said his country was worried about the risk of violence this weekend.

"It's a dangerous situation. There is a concern that things could turn serious on Saturday and Sunday," he told Reuters.

Mr Mursi took power as Egypt's first democratically elected president in June 2012. But fears that he was trying to set up an Islamist autocracy and his failure to ease economic hardships led to mass street demonstrations which triggered the army move.

The crisis reached a dangerous new phase after the collapse this week of an international effort to bridge the gap between the two sides and avert bloodshed. Mr Mursi and many other leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood remain in prison.

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