CAIRO, Aug 14, 2013 (AFP)
CAIRO, Aug 14, 2013 (AFP)
Security forces Wednesday stormed two huge Cairo protests by supporters of Egypt’s ousted president Mohamed Morsi, prompting the resignation of vice president Mohamed ElBaradei and sparking nationwide violence which left at least 149 people dead.
With clashes breaking out across the country and rioting erupting in Egypt’s second city Alexandria, Egypt’s army-installed authorities declared a month-long state of emergency effective from 4:00 pm (1400 GMT) Wednesday.
They also slapped Cairo and other provinces with curfews between 7:00 pm and 6:00 am.
Gory photographs and video images of the Cairo bloodbath dominated social media networks as world powers called for restraint and condemned the show of force by Egypt’s security forces.
Four churches were attacked in Egypt, with Christian activists accusing Morsi loyalists of waging “a war of retaliation against Copts in Egypt”.
Hours after the first tear gas canisters rained down on tents of protesters in Rabaa al-Adawiya, an AFP correspondent counted at least 124 bodies in makeshift morgues in the sprawling east Cairo camp.
In a field hospital, its floors slippery with blood, doctors struggled to cope with the casualties, leaving the hopeless cases, even if still alive.
The health ministry said at least 149 people were killed and another 1,403 people injured in the Cairo crackdown and in clashes across Egypt.
Among those who died in the clashes was 17-year-old Asmaa al-Beltagui, daughter of wanted Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed al-Beltagui, a spokesman for the movement said.
Britain’s Sky News said its veteran cameraman Mick Deane was shot and killed while covering the deadly violence.
Security officials had spoken of a gradual dispersal of the sit-ins over several days but the dramatic descent on the squares shortly after dawn came as a surprise to many.
ElBaradei, in his letter of resignation to the interim president seen by AFP, said his conscience was troubled over the loss of life “particularly as I believe it could have been avoided”.
“It has become too difficult to continue bearing responsibility for decisions I do not agree with and whose consequences I fear,” ElBaradei said.
By Wednesday evening, hundreds of Morsi supporters were given safe passage out of Rabaa al-Adawiya, some flashing victory signs as they left through a security corridor.
A security official confirmed to AFP that hundreds of people were taking advantage of the safe passage offer but said some diehards stayed behind amid ongoing clashes with security forces.
Shortly after dawn, witnesses and an AFP correspondent said security forces fired tear gas before surging into Rabaa al-Adawiya, sparking pandemonium among the thousands of protesters who had set up the camp soon after Morsi was ousted.
Men in gas masks rushed to grab each canister and dunk them in containers of water, as the main stage near the mosque of the camp blared Islamic anthems and protesters chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest.)
In the smaller of the protest camps at Al-Nahda square in central Cairo, police said they took control of the square after two hours.
Television footage showed flattened tents, as women and children flanked by police and army troops were led out of the square.
Dozens rounded up in the dispersal were shown sitting on the ground, handcuffed and surrounded by security forces.
The violence came amid international appeals for calm.
Europe’s leading powers along with Iran, Qatar and Turkey strongly denounced the use of force by the military-backed interim government.
The White House said Washington “strongly condemns” the violence against the protesters in Egypt and opposes the imposition of a state of emergency.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest urged the Egyptian military to “show restraint”.
Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood urged Egyptians to take to the streets in their thousands to denounce the “massacre”.
“This is not an attempt to disperse, but a bloody attempt to crush all voices of opposition to the military coup,” Brotherhood spokesman Gehad al-Haddad said on Twitter.
But the anger against the Islamist movement was evident Wednesday as residents of several neighbourhoods clashed with Morsi loyalists.
Clashes also erupted between security forces and Morsi loyalists in the northern provinces of Alexandria and Beheira, the canal provinces of Suez and Ismailiya and the central provinces of Assiut and Menya.
In Alexandria, hundreds of angry Morsi supporters marched through the streets armed with wooden clubs chanting “Morsi is my president”.
An AFP reporter said the protesters set fire to car tyres and tore down pictures of army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who was behind the Islamist leader’s July 3 overthrow.
At one cafe where Sisi’s picture was hanging, they smashed the doors and beat up the patrons as they shouted “Sisi is a killer”.
It was a dramatic turn of events for the Muslim Brotherhood, who just over a year ago celebrated Morsi’s victory as Egypt’s first elected president.
But his turbulent year in power, marred by political turmoil, deadly clashes and a crippling economic crisis, turned many against the Islamist movement.
On June 30, millions took to the streets to call on the army to remove Morsi.