Over 200 dead after Egypt forces crush protesters
Updated: 2013-08-15 06:29
CAIRO - Egyptian security forces crushed the protest camps of thousands of supporters of the deposed Islamist president on Wednesday, shooting almost 200 of them dead in the bloodiest day in decades and polarising the Arab world's most populous nation.
At least 235 people were killed in all, including at least 43 police, and 2,000 wounded, a health official said, in fierce clashes that spread beyond Cairo to towns and cities around Egypt. Deposed president Mohamed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood said the death toll of what it called a "massacre" was far higher.
While bodies wrapped in carpets were carried to a makeshift morgue near the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, the army-backed rulers declared a one-month state of emergency, restoring to the military the unfettered power it wielded for decades before a pro-democracy uprising toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said 43 police were among the dead. Security forces had completely cleared two protest camps in the capital and would not tolerate any further sit-ins, he said, vowing to restore Mubarak-era security.
Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi defended the use of force, condemned by the United States and European governments, saying the authorities had no choice but to act to end "the spread of anarchy".
"We found that matters had reached a point that no self-respecting state could accept," he said in a televised address.
The authorities imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in Cairo and several other cities including Alexandria, Egypt's second city on the Mediterranean coast.
The use of force prompted Mohamed ElBaradei, a former UN diplomat and the most prominent liberal supporter of Morsi's overthrow, to resign as vice president, saying the conflict could have been resolved by peaceful means.
"The beneficiaries of what happened today are those call for violence, terrorism and the most extreme groups," he said.
Thousands of Morsi's supporters had been camped at two major sites in Cairo since before he was toppled on July 3, and had vowed not to leave the streets until he was returned to power.
The assault, ending a six-week stand-off, defied international pleas for restraint and a negotiated political solution. Straddling the Suez Canal, a vital global trade route, Egypt is a key US ally at the heart of the Middle East and was the first Arab state to make peace with Israel.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon all deplored the use of force and called for the state of emergency to be lifted as soon as possible.