Egypt's military authorities have ordered the arrest of the Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual leader for inciting an outbreak of violence that left at least 51 of the movement's supporters dead.
In a move certain to raise the Islamist group's sense of victimhood, prosecutors issued arrest warrants for Mohammed Badie and three of his associates over Monday's events outside the army's Republican Guards' officers' club – thus openly blaming the Brotherhood for an incident it has called a "massacre".
Criminal charges were also brought against some 200 people arrested in the violence, in which security forces opened fire on a vigil calling for the reinstatement of the deposed Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi.
Mr Badie, the Brotherhood's supreme guide, delivered a rousing speech to a sit-in being held at Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque last Friday, urging protesters to stay on the streets until Mr Morsi's rule was restored.
The judicial moves against him appeared to further reduce the chances of political reconciliation as the newly appointed prime minister, Hazem al-Beblawi, sought to form a caretaker cabinet.
Mr Beblawi, a 76-year-old former finance minister who was announced as premier on Tuesday by Adly Mansour, the recently-installed interim president, said he was prepared to appoint Brotherhood ministers as a first step towards healing Egypt's political divide.
But that olive branch was rejected by the Brotherhood, which said it would have no truck with any government.
The Brotherhood has called for an uprising to restore the government of Mr Morsi, who was ousted and detained on July 3 after a year in office following mass protests by opponents who accused him of authoritarianism. Thousands of his supporters gathered late last week outside the Republican Guard facility in Cairo's Nasr City district believing he was being held there.
The Brotherhood claims 51 of them – including women and children – were shot dead in the early hours of Monday morning after soldiers and police opened fire while they were praying.
The army says it was responding after coming under attack from "terrorists", whom it claims tried to storm the Republican Guards club.
The authorities' version of events came under fire yesterday from human rights groups, including Amnesty International, which called for an "independent and impartial" inquiry after accusing the security forces of using "intentional lethal force".
"Despite claims by the military that protesters attacked first during clashes on Monday and that no women and children were injured, first-hand accounts collected by Amnesty International paint a very different picture," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, the group's deputy regional director.
"Even if some protesters used violence, the response was disproportionate and led to the loss of life and injury among peaceful protesters." (© Daily Telegraph, London)