State of emergency in Egypt as hundreds reported dead
Riot police storm Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins as protesters seek Morsi reinstatement
Wounded supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi at a field hospital following clashes with security forces in Cairo yesterday. Photograph: Narciso Contreras/the New York Times
A state of emergency was proclaimed yesterday in Egypt and night-time curfews imposed across the country after security forces stormed two Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins where protesters had been demanding the reinstatement of president Mohamed Morsi deposed in early July.
President Adly Mansour said the measures were taken as “the nation’s security and order face danger due to deliberate sabotage, and attacks on public and private buildings and the loss of life” because of actions by “extremist groups”.
Black-clad riot police and security forces carried out the operation while the army attempted to impose order on the streets.
The security forces used tear gas, birdshot and live fire against the protesters, who reportedly responded with stones and bricks stockpiled for defence. Men with assault and hunting rifles fired back.
Saw 43 bodies
Reporters who gained access to the field hospital at Rabaa al-Adawiya saw 43 bodies laid out on the floor.
Acting vice-president Mohamed ElBaradei, who had expressed opposition to the use of force ahead of the operation, resigned.
“The beneficiaries of what happened today are those who call for violence and terrorism and the most extreme groups,” he said in a letter to the country’s leadership.
Deputy prime ministers Ziad Bahaeddin and Hossam Eissa were set to step down as well.
The health ministry said 278 people were killed and over 2,000 wounded at the camp sites and elsewhere as Brotherhood supporters in Alexandria and Suez Canal cities, Luxor and Aswan attacked public buildings, police stations and Coptic Christian churches.
The UN estimated that casualties were much higher.
According to the interior ministry, 543 people had been arrested. Among the dead was Mick Dean, a veteran cameraman for Britain’s Sky News, while a number of other journalists were wounded.
The smaller encampment at Nahda Square near Cairo University in Giza, south of the capital, was cleared within hours of the early-morning operation while thousands resisted or were trapped by the onslaught on the sprawling camp at Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in northeastern Nasr City.
However, as evening fell, lines of men with hands in the air were shown on state television leaving Rabaa al-Adawiya along an escape corridor opened by the security services. Unarmed protesters were given safe passage while those with arms were arrested, the state news agency reported.
Most of the thousands of Egyptians who joined this sit-in were not activists but civilians who were convinced their votes for Mr Morsi had been stolen when the military toppled him in early July. Before the attacks on the sit-in protests, Brotherhood spokesman Mohamed el-Baltagi, whose 17-year-old daughter was killed during the assault, remained defiant, reasserted the movement’s claim to “legitimacy”, and warned that the military’s action could turn Egypt into another Syria. He was later arrested.