Blood flows at Egyp­tian protests

State of emer­gency de­clared af­ter dozens killed in clashes

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

HAS­SAN MO­HAMED / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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.

EGYPT’S SIT-IN CAMPS

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