At 3.17am on Monday 8 July, Dr Yehia Moussa prepared to kneel outside the Republican Guards’ club in east Cairo for dawn prayers. For a few more short hours, Moussa would remain the official spokesman for the Egyptian health ministry. But he was outside the club that day in a personal capacity. Along with about 2,000 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, Moussa had camped outside the gated compound in protest at the removal of ex-president Mohamed Morsi, who they then believed was imprisoned inside.
Like everyone else, Moussa knelt with his back to the barbed wire fence protecting the entrance to the club. A few feet away were Dr Reda Mohamedi, an education lecturer at al-Azhar University, and beyond him Dr Yasser Taha, an al-Azhar biochemistry professor. All three were friends from university days, and had shared a tent that night.
Within the hour, Taha would be dead with a bullet in his neck and Mohamedi would be unconscious, a bullet through his thigh. Moussa would have gunshot wounds in both legs and be missing most of his right index finger.
All three were victims of Egypt’s bloodiest state-led massacre since the fall of Hosni Mubarak, in which, according to official figures, at least 51 people were killed by Egyptian security forces and at least 435 injured. Two policemen and one soldier were also killed with 42 injured. The military has said that the assault on the protesters was provoked by a terrorist attack. At about 4am, according to the army’s account, 15 armed motorcyclists approached the Republican Guards’ club compound. The army said that the motorcyclists fired shots, that people attempted to break into the compound, and that the soldiers then had no choice but to defend their property.
However, a week-long investigation – including interviews with 31 witnesses, local people and medics, as well as analysis of video evidence – found no evidence of the motorcyclist attack and points to a very different narrative, in which the security forces launched a co-ordinated assault on a group of largely peaceful and unarmed civilians.
The army turned down four requests to interview soldiers present at the scene.
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