Clashes at the Muslim Brotherhood’s headquarters in Mokattam district, Cairo, intensified late on Saturday, with reported assaults on journalists by group members adding fuel to fire.
Violence first broke out earlier in the day shortly after a meeting between Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.
Protests against President Mohamed Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, and Badie who many critics say is the actual ruler of the country, were staged by dozens of protesters.
The ensuing violence renewed accusations that the Muslim Brotherhood field strongmen to assault the opposition, which the Islamist group faced late last year when its supporters and opponents engaged in deadly clashes in front of the presidential palace in Cairo.
Activist Ahmed Doma, a staunch critic of the incumbent regime, sustained several injuries after he was beaten up by what he described as the Brotherhood’s “militias.”
He said the Brotherhood “aggressive” defenders indiscriminately beat protesters, men and women alike, as well as journalists.
Egypt’s private paper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported that its journalist, Mohamed Talaat, was assaulted by “youth of the Muslim Brotherhood” on Saturday.
He was attacked, the report said, when he tried to talk to a group of youth who were drawing anti-Brotherhood graffiti in the perimeter of the group’s headquarters.
Brotherhood members, according to the report, forcibly pushed him away, before verbally and physically assaulting him when he said he was a journalist.
Amr Hafez, a photographer from Al-Watan – another private daily – said he was also injured when the Brotherhood youth attacked those drawing graffiti.
He told ONTV that a Brotherhood member commissioned to protect the guidance bureau threw a chair at him.
Hafez said fellow photographer Mohamed Nabil picked up a foot injury in a similar manner. Meanwhile, the youth drawing graffiti were also attacked by the Brotherhood members.
For his part, Diaa Rashwan, the newly-elected head of Egypt’s press syndicate, was quoted by several media reports as saying the presidency must apologize for the assault on journalists.
Conversely, senior Brotherhood spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan said in a media statement that some journalists and photographers were involved in “provocative” acts along with protesters.
He stressed that a number of demonstrators swore at Brotherhood “youth” deployed at the Brotherhood’s headquarters.
Yasser Mehrez, another Brotherhood spokesperson, said: “Everybody is entitled to the right to protest and freedom of expression, but insulting others and sabotaging acts are unacceptable.”
He added: “Clashes erupted because some tried to break into the Brotherhood’s headquarters. The Brotherhood’s youth did not mean to assault journalists or anyone else.”
Central Security Forces stepped in several times throughout the day to restore order, having used teargas more than once to put an end to the violence.
By midnight, several protesters hurled rocks at the police forces, who blocked the surrounding streets to prevent angry demonstrators from reaching the Brotherhood’s headquarters, and torched a police vehicle.
Several offices of the Brotherhood across the country were attacked and torched during violent protests during the past few months.