CAIRO (CNN) — Egypt’s interim interior minister blamed supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy for violence Saturday that left dozens dead and hundreds more wounded.
The statement appears to signal a rapidly waning tolerance of Morsy’s Muslim Brotherhood by the military-backed government.
The comments by Minister Mohamed Ibrahim followed clashes overnight between Morsy’s supporters and those opposed to his rule that left dozens dead, an escalation of violence that has raised concerns among Western leaders about the stability of a key ally in the region.
Ibrahim did not outright disavow claims by Muslim Brotherhood protesters that police fired on them. But interim Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei condemned the “excessive use of force” that resulted in deaths, state-run EGYNews reported.
Tensions between the sides were likely to be further inflamed after Ibrahim told reporters in a televised news conference that Morsy would probably be moved to the same prison where ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak is being held.
The decision, according to Ibrahim, will be made by an investigative judge. Morsy has been ordered jailed by a judge for 15 days on allegations, predating his election, that he had collaborated with the Palestinian group Hamas, according to state media.
Morsy has not been seen publicly since he was forced from office. But an attorney who has visited with Morsy’s former chief of staff, who also is being detained, told CNN that the former president is being “treated with the utmost respect.”
“He is treated like a statesman,” Nasser Amin said after meeting with Refa’a al-Tahtawi.
But the problem, Amin said, is that Morsy and others who are being held “can’t contact the outside world or lawyers.”
Morsy has been interrogated twice, once on July 17 and again on July 24, according to al-Tahtawi, Amin said. Egyptian law does not require an attorney be present for initial interrogations.
Rival rallies draw thousands
Since the Egyptian military pushed Morsy from office on July 3, supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, have staged mass rallies and sit-ins across the country. In Cairo and elsewhere, rival rallies have drawn hundreds of thousands, with sometimes deadly results.
It is unlikely Morsy’s supporters will end their demonstrations without resistance — leaders of the movement refuse to recognize the interim government or cooperate with it — despite Ibrahim’s pledge that the rallies will be brought to an end soon.
“We have complete coordination between the police and the armed forces to end the protests at the proper time,” Ibrahim said. “… But we are waiting for the prosecutor’s office to issue orders so can we have the legal cover for it.”
There were conflicting casualty tolls Saturday from clashes between Morsy’s supporters and Egyptian security forces. The clashes ensued when protesters attempted to block a major bridge in the Cairo neighborhood of Nasr City, considered a Morsy stronghold.
Conflicting casualty counts are common in the chaotic aftermath of violence, and Egypt’s Ministry of Health did not return CNN’s repeated calls for comment.
Dr. Khaled Al Khatib, the health ministry’s head of central emergency and critical care, said late Saturday on state-run Nile TV that 65 people had been killed in the Nasr City violence.
Medics at a field hospital in Nasr City — run by the Muslim Brotherhood — put the toll at 66 people dead, with another 61 on life support among thousands wounded.
Al Khatib said on state TV there were 269 wounded there, with another 479 suffering injuries as a result of similar clashes in other provinces. More than half of those wounded are still receiving treatment in Egyptian hospitals, he said.
Another nine people died in clashes Friday in Alexandria, according to Al Khatib.
The government has accused the Muslim Brotherhood of inflating casualty tolls, while the Brotherhood has accused the government of trying to downplay the number being killed.
The European Union’s foreign minister condemned the killings as well as bellicose language by officials.
“There is no room for hate-speech and other forms of incitement,” according to a statement released Saturday by Catherine Ashton’s office.
Those opposed to Morsy took to the streets Friday and into the early morning hours Saturday to celebrate the military that had pushed him from office.
Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, head of the military, called for mass demonstrations to support him and the military in ending what he has called “terrorism.” The Brotherhood condemned his statements as “inciting violence and hatred.”
The Muslim Brotherhood, which Morsy formerly led, accused police Friday and Saturday of firing on demonstrators with live ammunition.
A police spokesman rejected the claim Saturday, saying police fired only tear gas canisters and were not responsible for the deaths.
Ibrahim blamed the protesters for the violence, saying 14 policemen were wounded in the clashes.
“I want to emphasize here that the Interior Ministry police force has never and will never fire its weapons at any Egyptian citizen,” he said.
But a wounded protester getting medical treatment at a field hospital said he saw men in plain clothes fire on pro-Morsy demonstrators with shotguns.
He referred to them as “thugs,” a term commonly used for young men, who support the government and resort to violence.
“Police forces were standing behind them. Also, military forces were outside blocking three entrances to Rabaa Adawiya neighborhood,” Mohammed Sultan said. He also reported seeing corpses with gunshot wounds at the hospital.
As tear gas wafted through the air in Cairo, witnesses reported that some clashes with security forces occurred near the 6th of October bridge over the Nile River, joining the opposing protesters.
A different scene played out nearby in Tahrir Square, which was the hub of the popular movement that led to the 2011 military ouster of Mubarak.
Repeatedly, fireworks lit up the night sky. Those gathered below, opposed to Morsy, cheered military helicopters that flew by, dropping leaflets and Egyptian flags.
Morsy, and how he’d steered Egypt’s government, was foremost on the minds of people on both sides of the fight.
Prosecutor: Morsy collaborated with Hamas
The former Muslim Brotherhood leader became Egypt’s first democratically president in June 2012, but found himself at odds with the opposition before the military removed him from power and detained him this month.
Nineteen members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including Morsy, are accused of breaking out of jail after Egypt’s 2011 revolution, state media reported.
The prosecutors, who ordered a probe two weeks ago, said the escape was plotted by “foreign elements” including Hamas, its military wing, the Islamic Palestinian Army and Hezbollah. The Muslim Brotherhood was named as a domestic group that cooperated with those who broke them out of prison.
Morsy is accused of escaping, destroying the prison’s official records and intentionally killing and abducting police officers and prisoners.
Local media reports at the time stated that Morsy was in prison for a single day. Critics of the Mubarak regime have said that the jailbreak was organized by the Mubarak regime in an attempt to sow chaos during the uprising against him.
According to the Al-Masri Al-Youm newspaper, Morsy was among 500 members of the Muslim Brotherhood who have been arrested for planning to join anti-Mubarak demonstrations. Allegedly, there were no formal charges against them.
The military has not commented on Morsy’s whereabouts. When he was first detained, a Brotherhood spokesman told CNN that he was initially under house arrest at the presidential Republican Guard headquarters in Cairo and later was moved to the defense ministry.
By Ben Brumfield. Hamdi Alkhshali and Ben Wedeman
CNN’s Ben Wedeman reported from Cairo, and Ben Brumfield and Hamdi Alkhshali reported from Atlanta. CNN’s Chelsea J. Carter and Yousuf Basil contributed to this report.