The Egyptian Military has opened fire on protesters supporting the recently deposed president, killing at least 72 people. The protests come in the wake of the military coup that removed freely elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who remains under arrest. In the aftermath of the coup the military has initiated a crackdown on Morsi supporters, especially those with connections to Morsi’s political party and religious organization, the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Egyptian authorities unleashed a ferocious attack on Islamist protesters early Saturday, killing at least 72 people in the second mass killing of demonstrators in three weeks and the deadliest attack by the security services since Egypt’s uprising in early 2011.

The attack provided further evidence that Egypt’s security establishment was reasserting its dominance after President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster three weeks ago, and widening its crackdown on his Islamist allies in the Muslim Brotherhood. The tactics — many were killed with gunshot wounds to the head or the chest — suggested that Egypt’s security services felt no need to show any restraint.

Though many Egyptians supported removing the freely elected president at the time of the coup, there is little evidence that there is mass support for the campaign of violence the military launched afterwards – violence which the military played down in public statements.

As the deaths have mounted, more than 200 since the government was overthrown, hopes have faded for a political solution to the standoff between the military and the Brotherhood, whose leaders, including Mr. Morsi, are imprisoned or preparing themselves for jail.

In a televised news conference hours after the clash, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim absolved his men of any responsibility and made no mention of the high death toll. His officers, he said, “have never and will never shoot a bullet on any Egyptian.”

The Egyptian Military and the Muslim Brotherhood are historic enemies and rivals for power in Egypt. When the Brotherhood won the election, it publicly pushed back against military influence in the government. The role of the Egyptian Military in fomenting the protests that helped justify the coup is still unknown, but one things is for sure – the latest bloody episode in the struggle between the two groups has seriously jeopardized any remaining prospects for substantive democracy in Egypt.