Cairo - Egypt was under a tense state of emergency on Thursday
after security forces stormed the Cairo protest camps supporting ousted
Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, in a bloody assault that sparked violence
across the country which officials said claimed 278 lives.
The army-backed interim government imposed a month-long
nationwide state of emergency, and curfews in Cairo and 13 other provinces
after the violence on Wednesday.
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 security forces.
At least four churches were attacked, with Christian
activists accusing Morsi loyalists of waging "a war of retaliation against
Copts in Egypt".
Hours after tear gas canisters first rained down on tents of
protesters in the sprawling Rabaa al-Adawiya camp in eastern Cairo, an AFP
correspondent counted at least 124 bodies in makeshift morgues there.
In a field hospital, its floors slippery with blood, doctors
struggled to cope with the casualties, leaving the hopeless cases, even if
The health ministry said 235 civilians were killed in the
Cairo crackdown and in subsequent clashes across Egypt. The interior ministry
added that 43 security personnel had lost their lives.
Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood spoke of 2 200 dead overall and
more than 10 000 wounded.
Among those killed in Cairo was 17-year-old Asmaa
al-Beltagui, daughter of wanted Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed al-Beltagui,
a spokesperson for Morsi's movement said.
Loss of life
Britain's Sky News said a veteran cameraman, Briton Mick
Deane, was shot and killed while covering the assaults.
The violence prompted vice president and Nobel laureate
Mohamed ElBaradei to resign, saying 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," he said.
The state of emergency went into effect at 16:00 on
Wednesday, with daily overnight curfews from 19:00 to 06:00.
The dramatic descent on the squares shortly after dawn came
as a surprise to many. Security officials had originally spoken of gradually
dispersing the sit-ins over several days.
Shortly after dawn on Wednesday, 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 in a military coup on July 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
Many Morsi supporters were given safe passage out of the
camp, some flashing victory signs as they left through a security corridor.
A security official told AFP that hundreds of people were
taking advantage of the safe passage offer, but that some diehards had stayed
behind to fight on.
By Wednesday evening, a security official said Rabaa
al-Adawiya was "totally under control", adding: "There are no
Use of force widely condemned
In the smaller of the protest camps, at Al-Nahda square in
central Cairo, police said they had control of the area 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.
Authorities later said calm had been restored across the
Europe's leading powers, along with Iran, Qatar and Turkey,
strongly denounced the use of force by the interim government.
The White House said Washington, which provides Egypt with
$1.3 billion in annual military aid, "strongly condemns" the violence
against the protesters and opposes the imposition of a state of emergency.
Interim prime minister Hazem al-Beblawi praised the police
for their "self-restraint" and said the government remained committed
to an army-drafted roadmap that calls for elections in 2014.
The 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.
Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said no more protests
would be tolerated.
The anger against the Islamist movement was evident as
residents of several neighbourhoods clashed with Morsi loyalists.
Clashes also erupted between security forces and Morsi
supporters 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
An AFP reporter said they set fire to tyres and tore down
pictures of army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who led the coup against Morsi.
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
His turbulent 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