Death toll from 2-day clashes in Egypt rises to 11

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Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi sit on sand barriers set up by protesters near Cairo University in Giza, Egypt, Tuesday, July 23, 2013. Overnight clashes between supporters and opponents of the country’s ousted president near the main campus of Cairo University left many dead, according to a senior medical official. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

CAIRO (AP) — The death toll from two days of clashes between supporters and opponents of Egypt's ousted president rose to 11 on Tuesday, most killed in pre-dawn street battles near a pro-Mohammed Morsi protest camp as the country remained mired in deadly turmoil three weeks after the military overthrew the Islamist leader.

The bloodshed is widening the divisions between Morsi's supporters and the military-backed administration that took over after he was toppled and diminishing the chances of reconciliation. Fueling the anger is the continued detention of Morsi, the country's first freely elected leader, who has been held incommunicado and without charge.

Violence has frequently broken out amid persistent rival demonstrations between the two sides, but the running street battles that began before dawn on Tuesday were among the most intense since the crisis began on July 3.

Clashes broke out after Morsi supporters began marching from their sit-in outside the main campus of Cairo university to a nearby mosque. The protesters blocked roads, causing massive traffic jams and angering residents.

Security officials said the fighting turned deadly after masked gunmen appeared at the scene and started shooting at the Morsi supporters with live ammunition and birdshot. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information, had no word on the identity of the gunmen.

The Muslim Brotherhood, however, blamed the killings on "thugs" sponsored by the Interior Ministry, a charge the Islamist group from which Morsi hails often uses to dismiss the notion that it was at odds with other segments of the population.

Khaled el-Khateeb, who heads the Health Ministry's emergency and intensive care department, said six people were killed near the pro-Morsi sit-in. The security officials put the casualty toll at seven killed and 11 injured.

The ouster of Morsi followed massive street protests by millions of Egyptians demanding that the Islamist president step down. His supporters are calling for his reinstatement and insist they will not join the military-backed political process until then.

Clashes also broke out Monday, leaving three people dead in the town of Qalioub, north of Cairo. Backers of the two sides also fought near the site of another pro-Morsi protest camp in an eastern Cairo district and in the central Tahrir Square, birthplace of the 2011 uprising that toppled Morsi's authoritarian predecessor, Hosni Mubarak.

At least one person was killed near Tahrir, officials said.

The Interior Ministry, which is in charge of the police, said Tuesday that 66 people have been arrested in connection with the violence of the previous day. El-Khateeb said more than 80 people were injured in Monday's clashes.

The latest violence underlines the depth of the polarization in Egypt since shortly after the popular uprising that toppled Mubarak, whose rule was unchecked for nearly 30 years. Two weeks ago, at least 54 people were killed in violence between security forces and Morsi supporters, the deadliest single toll since the coup.

Morsi's fate also has become a focus of the political battle between Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and the new military-backed government.

The deposed president's family denounced the military in a Monday news conference, accusing it of "kidnapping" him, and European diplomats urged that he be released.

In a separate development, two rights groups — Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International — urged Egyptian authorities to investigate a spate of attacks against Christians following Morsi's ouster and bring their perpetrators to account.

At least six Christians have been killed and scores injured in at least six provinces since July 3. The worst was in a village near the ancient city of Luxor where four Christians were killed and three injured at the hands of a mob of Islamists. Other attacks included the shooting death of a priest in the Sinai town of el-Arish and the destruction and looting of Christian homes and stores in Minya province south of Cairo. A church was also targeted in Minya.

"A thorough, impartial and independent investigation must be conducted into the events in Luxor and the grossly inadequate response of the security forces to the attack," according to Amnesty.

"Authorities should hold accountable the people responsible for the sectarian killings and attacks on houses of worship and property, and investigate whether security forces took inadequate measures to prevent or stop the attacks," Human Rights Watch said.