CAIRO — The Morsi supporters had been camped out for days at the site in tents around a mosque near the Republican Guard complex, where Morsi was initially held but was later moved to an undisclosed Defense Ministry facility.
Spokesmen for the military and police gave a nationally televised press conference to give their version of the morning's bloodshed.
Army Col. Ahmed Mohammed Ali said police and troops guarding the Republican Guard complex came under "heavy gunfire" at around 4 a.m. and attackers on rooftops opened fire with guns and molotov cocktails. Along with the soldier and two policemen, 42 in the security forces were wounded, eight critically, he said.
He underlined that the troops had the right to defend the installation and that the protest "was no longer peaceful." He pointed out that suspected Islamists have carried out coordinated armed attacks on several military facilities in recent days in the Sinai Peninsula.
One witness, university student Mirna el-Helbawi, also said gunmen loyal to Morsi opened fire first, including from the roof of a nearby mosque. El-Helbawi, 21, lives in an apartment overlooking the scene.
Supporters of Morsi, however, said the security forces fired on hundreds of protesters, including women and children, at the sit-in encampment as they performed early morning prayers.
"They opened fire with live ammunition and lobbed tear gas," said Al-Shaimaa Younes, who was at the sit-in. "There was panic and people started running. I saw people fall."
A Muslim Brotherhood spokesman, Mourad Ali, denied any Morsi supporters fired first andsaid the military had warned protesters it will break up the sit-in.
Abu Ubaida Mahmoud, a religion student from Al-Azhar University, said he had been praying when the sit-in's security teams began banging on metal barricades in warning. He then saw troops coming out of the Guard complex.