CAIRO, Aug 15, 2013 (AFP)
CAIRO, Aug 15, 2013 (AFP)
Fresh violence targeting the security forces hit an on-edge Egypt Thursday, as Washington cancelled a joint military exercise in response to a bloody crackdown on protesters that killed more than 500 people.
Security sources said at least seven soldiers and a policeman were killed in attacks in Sinai, and another policeman killed in the central city of Assuit.
With the country under a state of emergency and many provinces hit by night-time curfews, Egypt’s interior ministry ordered police to take tough measures after a series of attacks on government buildings.
The death toll from Wednesday’s operation to clear two protests in support of ousted president Mohamed Morsi rose to 525, making Wednesday the country’s bloodiest day in decades.
International criticism of the bloodshed poured in, with some capitals summoning Egyptian envoys and others issuing forceful condemnations.
Morsi supporters staged new marches in the capital, where a governorate building was set alight, as well as in coastal Alexandria and southern Beni Suef.
And attacks against churches and Christian properties that began on Wednesday continued for a second day, activists said.
As relatives sought to identify their dead, Brotherhood spokesman Gehad al-Haddad insisted protesters would “remain strong, defiant and resolved.”
“We will push forward until we bring down this military coup,” he tweeted. In Cairo, one march set out from the Al-Iman mosque, where dozens of corpses of protesters clad in white shrouds were lined up before grieving relatives.
At the two protest sites where Morsi loyalists had camped since his July 3 ouster, trucks cleared charred debris.
The carnage prompted fierce international condemnation, led by the United States, with President Barack Obama announcing a joint US-Egyptian military exercise would be cancelled.
“While we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back,” he said.
But despite cancelling the Bright Star exercise, which has been scheduled every two years since 1981, he stopped short of suspending Washington annual $1.3 billion in aid to Egypt.
In Europe, governments in multiple capitals summoned Egyptian envoys to voice their concern, with France warning of the threat of “civil war.”
French President Francois Hollande said France was “committed to finding a political solution and calls for elections to be held as soon as possible, in line with the commitments made by Egypt’s transitional authorities.”
Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a Morsi supporter, called for an urgent UN Security Council meeting over Egypt’s “massacre.”
And UN rights chief Navi Pillay called for “an independent, impartial, effective and credible investigation of the conduct of the security forces.”
“The number of people killed or injured, even according to the government’s figures, point to an excessive, even extreme use of force against demonstrators,” she said.
But Egypt’s interior ministry announced new security measures on Thursday, ordering police to use live fire if government buildings came under attacks.
The statement appeared to be a bid to warn against fresh attacks like those that targeted police stations in Sinai and Assuit, and the Giza governorate building in Cairo.
In Sinai, where militants have targeted police and army facilities on an almost daily basis, security officials reported seven soldiers killed in a shooting attack.
The troops were gunned down by armed men in two cars as they manned a checkpoint near the northern Sinai town of El-Arish, they said.
Despite the bloodshed, Egypt’s press welcomed the end of the pro-Morsi demonstrations.
“The nightmare of the Brotherhood is gone,” daily Al-Akhbar’s front page headline read.
“The Brotherhood’s last battle,” added Al-Shorouk.
The newspapers carried photos of protesters brandishing weapons and throwing stones, but none from makeshift morgues where dead protesters were lined up in rooms slick with blood.
The killing prompted interim vice president and Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei to resign, saying he was troubled over the loss of life, “particularly as I believe it could have been avoided”.
In response to the violence, Egypt’s interim government, installed by the military after Morsi’s ouster, announced a nationwide state of emergency on Wednesday.
A nightly curfew was also imposed across 14 Egyptian provinces.
The events are a dramatic turnaround for the Brotherhood, which just over a year ago celebrated Morsi’s victory as Egypt’s first elected president.
His single year in power, marred by political turmoil, deadly clashes and a crippling economic crisis, turned many against the Islamist movement, with millions taking to the streets on June 30 to call for his removal.