Cairo - Security forces backed by bulldozers moved in Wednesday
on two huge protest camps set up in Cairo by supporters of Egypt's ousted
president Mohamed Morsi, launching a long-threatened crackdown that left dozens
The operation began shortly after dawn when security forces
surrounded the sprawling Rabaa al-Adawiya camp in east Cairo and a similar one
at Al-Nahda square, in the centre of the capital.
Witnesses and an AFP correspondent said police rained
canisters of tear gas down onto tents before entering Rabaa al-Adawiya,
sparking pandemonium among the thousands of protesters who set up the camp soon
after Morsi was ousted by the army on 3
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
Clashes quickly erupted between protesters and security
forces on one side of the camp, as automatic fire could be heard. It was not
immediately clear who was doing the shooting.
Television footage showed injured people being carried to a
makeshift medical centre as well as police dragging away protesters, who have
defied numerous ultimatums to end their demonstrations.
Protest leaders wearing gas masks stood defiantly on a stage
while crowds of people wearing face masks stood amid the swirling tear gas as
bulldozers began dismantling the camp.
Egypt's interior ministry mid-morning said security forces
have "total control" over Al-Nahda Square, the smaller of the two
"Police forces have managed to remove most of the tents
in the square," the ministry said.
A security official told AFP that dozens of Morsi supporters
had been arrested with the help of residents of the area.
Television footage showed protesters who had been rounded up
sitting in the ground handcuffed and surrounded by security forces.
Families, with their children, carrying plastic bags were
seen being escorted out of the square by police.
Railway authorities announced that all trains had been
grounded to prevent protesters from moving outside of Cairo and reassembling.
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 spokesperson Gehad al-Haddad said on Twitter.
The Rabaa al-Adawiya protest camp, where several Brotherhood
leaders are staying, "is calling on Egyptians to take to the streets to
stop the massacre," Haddad said.
In a separate tweet, Haddad said at least 250 people were
killed and over 5,000 injured in the crackdown. There was no immediate
independent confirmation of the tolls.
An AFP correspondent counted 43 bodies at a makeshift morgue
at Rabaa al-Adawiya, adding that many appeared to have died from gunshot
There were no women or children among the dead, the
Police barred journalists not already in the camp from
Egypt's interior ministry said two members of the security
forces were killed in the operation.
The crackdown came just hours after the United States urged
the military-backed interim government to allow Morsi supporters to protest
State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said
Washington regarded freedom to protest as a "key part" of the
democratic process but would be concerned by reports of violence.
The United States, which provides $1.5bn in mostly military
aid to Egypt every year, maintains close ties to the Egyptian military but says
it favours a rapid return to elected civilian rule.
Morsi, Egypt's first elected president, was overthrown by
the military on July 3 with popular backing.
His supporters had said nothing short of his reinstatement
would persuade them to disperse.
Clashes between pro- and anti-Morsi demonstrators and
security forces have killed more than 250 people since the end of June.
On Monday, the judiciary extended Morsi's detention for a
further 15 days pending an investigation into his collaboration with
Palestinian group Hamas.
The Muslim Brotherhood, banned in 1954 and repressed by
successive governments, won both parliamentary and presidential elections in
2011 after the ouster of veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak.
Prosecutors have set a 25 August date for the trial of the
Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie and his two deputies.