More than 40 killed in Egypt clash; pressure rises on Obama

More than 40 people died and more than 300 were injured in a clash Monday between the Egyptian army and pro-Muslim Brotherhood protestors. The shooting is likely to increase pressure on the Obama administration to sort out its policy on the country. 

The two sides offered contrasting takes on what provoked the violence, with backers of former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who was ousted by the military last week, saying the army opened fire on their demonstration during morning prayers at the facility where Morsi is being held.

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The military said it was fending off an attack from a “terrorist group” that tried to storm the Cairo barracks, Reuters reported.

The White House has avoided calling Morsi’s ouster a military coup, which would require the U.S. to end $1.3 billion in military aid to the country. It faces conflicting pressures from Congress over how to handle the aid.

Monday’s violence is an escalation of clashes that took place across the country and claimed 35 lives over the weekend.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Sunday said the military action was a coup and the U.S. should cut off aid.

But both parties appear split on that issue, with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) among those agreeing with McCain, but Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) saying aid should not be cut off. Corker is the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

In another development that complicates the administration's handling of the issue, the conservative Islamist Nour Party, which initially backed the movement to topple the Morsi regime, said it was pulling out of negotiations to form an interim government as a result of Monday’s violence. 

It called the incident “the massacre at the Republican Guard compound.”

Negotiations on an interim government and a new election had been at a standstill since the Nour Party rejected two liberal candidates proposed by the interim prime minister. Nour is the second largest Islamist party in Egypt, behind the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood is urging supporters to dig in for a fight against what it calls a military coup that toppled the year-old regime of Morsi last Wednesday. The military insists it was enforcing the will of the people after protests against Morsi’s regime.