Blood flows at Egyptian protests
State of emergency declared after dozens killed in clashes
Egypt declared a monthlong state of emergency on Wednesday after Egyptian security forces, backed by armored vehicles and bulldozers, swept in to clear two sit-in camps of supporters of the country’s ousted President Mohammed Morsi.
The exceptional measures came as “the security and order of the nation face danger due to deliberate sabotage, and attacks on public and private buildings and the loss of life by extremist groups,” the presidency said.
Interim President Adly Mansour “has tasked the armed forces, in cooperation with the police, to take all necessary measures to maintain security and order and to protect public and private property and the lives of citizens.”
The state of emergency was announced after authorities confirmed 56 deaths in the violence on Wednesday. The Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi emerged, said that 2,200 people had been killed and more than 10,000 injured.
Reuters said at least 60 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood were killed, citing a nurse at a hospital who said she counted the bodies.
An AFP correspondent counted at least 43 bodies in a makeshift morgue set up by medics manning a field hospital.
The major crackdown happened at Rabba al- Adawia, in northeast Cairo, where thousands of Morsi supporters have staged a six-week sit-in that caused the army acute embarrassment since it ousted the elected leader.
A second camp near Cairo University was swiftly cleared in the early morning.
The operation, which suggested that the military had lost patience with persistent protests that were crippling parts of the capital and slowing the political process, began just after dawn with helicopters hovering over the camps.
Gunfire rang out as protesters, among them women and children, fled Rabba, and clouds of black smoke rose into the air. Armored vehicles moved in beside bulldozers, which began clearing tents.
The government issued a statement saying security forces had shown the “utmost degree of self-restraint”, reflected in low casualties compared to the number of people “and the volume of weapons and violence directed against the security forces”.
A witness saw soldiers fire at protesters as they tried to enter the besieged Rabba camp in solidarity with other Morsi supporters. At least 20 were shot in the legs. Television pictures showed security forces shooting from nearby rooftops.
“Tear gas (canisters) were falling from the sky like rain. They closed every entrance,” said protester Khaled Ahmed, 20, a university student wearing a hard hat with tears streaming down his face.
Mohammed el-Beltagy, a senior Brotherhood leader, called on the police and army troops to mutiny against their commanders and on Egyptians to take to the streets to show their disapproval of raids on the sit-ins.
“Oh, Egyptian people, your brothers are in the square. ... Are you going to remain silent until the genocide is completed?’’ said el-Beltagy, who is wanted by authorities to answer allegations of inciting violence.
Wednesday’s attacks on the two pro-Morsi camps are the latest chapter in the turmoil that has roiled Egypt since the 2011 ouster of Hosni Mubarak and are likely to deepen the nation’s division between the camp of Islamists led by the Muslim Brotherhood on one side, and secularists, liberals, moderate Muslims and minority Christians on the other.
The pro-Morsi Anti-Coup Alliance claimed that security forces used live ammunition, but the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of the police, said its forces only used tear gas and that they came under fire from the camp.
Regional television networks were showing images of collapsed tents and burning tires at both sites, with ambulances on standby. They were also showing protesters being arrested and led away by blackclad policemen.
A TV cameraman for Britain’s Sky News was shot and killed while covering the deadly violence in Cairo, the channel said.
The crackdown triggered condemnation as the international community reacted with alarm to the deepening crisis.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday condemned the violence.
While the United Nations was still gathering information, it appeared that hundreds of people were killed or wounded in clashes between security forces and demonstrators, according to a statement by the secretary-general’s spokesperson.
Europe’s leading powers, along with Iran, Qatar and Turkey, denounced the use of force by the military-backed interim government.
“I am deeply concerned at the escalating violence and unrest in Egypt,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement. “I condemn the use of force in clearing protests and call on the security forces to act with restraint.”
Qatar, a main backer of the pro- Morsi Muslim Brotherhood, issued a similar message.
Turkey — which had developed strong ties with Morsi’s government — urged the international community to act immediately over what it said was an “unacceptable” response to the protests.
Egyptian police carry a wounded protester during clashes as security forces try to disperse protest camps set up by supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi in Cairo on Wednesday.