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500 Thai students to be evacuated from Cairo as crisis worsens

Thai authorities will bring back 500 students in Egypt who registered for evacuation via a charter flight, as the crisis there had worsened with dozens of more people killed in clashes on Friday and the unrest having reached the highest alert level, Foreign Affairs Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul said yesterday.

Supporters of Egypt's ousted Islamist president are vowing to defy a state of emergency with new protests yesterday, after marches in Cairo on Friday ended in the fiercest street battles the capital has seen in more than two years.

More than 80 people were killed on Friday in what the Muslim Brotherhood called a "Day of Rage" - ignited by anger at security forces for clearing two sit-in camps earlier in the week, leaving about 500 people dead.

As the sun rose yesterday morning over the Egyptian capital, security forces were in a stand-off with supporters of the ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. Hundreds of people barricaded themselves overnight inside the al-Fatah mosque, shoving furniture against the doors to stop police from breaking their way in.

Police were negotiating with those inside, promising them safe passage if they left. Small groups were seen emerging from the mosque by late in the morning, but more are believed to be still holed up inside.

The mosque at Ramses Square, scene of some of the heaviest clashes on Friday, had been used as a field hospital and morgue earlier in the day.

Across the city Friday, police and armed vigilantes at neighborhood checkpoints battled Muslim Brotherhood-led protesters, with the sight of residents firing at one another marking a dark turn in the conflict.

Military helicopters hovered over downtown as residents furious with the Brotherhood protests pelted marchers with rocks and glass bottles. The two sides also fired on one another, sparking running street battles throughout the capital's residential neighbourhoods.

Across the country, at least 72 civilians were killed, along with 10 police officers, security officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

The violence capped off a week that saw more than 700 people killed across the country. That toll surpasses the combined death toll from two and a half years of violent protests since the ouster of long-time leader Hosni Mubarak to the July 3 coup that toppled Morsi, who hails from the Brotherhood.

Unlike in past clashes between protesters and police, Friday's violence introduced a combustible new mix, with residents and police in civilian clothing battling the marchers.

Few police in uniform were seen as neighbourhood watch groups and pro-Morsi protesters fired at one another for hours on a bridge that crosses over Cairo's Zamalek district, an upscale island neighbourhood where many foreigners and diplomats live.

Friday's violence erupted shortly after midday prayers when tens of thousands of Brotherhood supporters answered the group's call to protest across Egypt in defiance of a military-imposed state of emergency following the bloodshed earlier this week.

Armed civilians manned impromptu checkpoints throughout the capital, banning Brotherhood marches from approaching and frisking anyone wanting to pass through. At one, residents barred ambulances and cars carrying wounded from Ramses Square from reaching a hospital.

Several of the protesters said they were ready to die, writing their names and relatives' phone numbers on one another's chests and undershirts in case they were killed.


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