Egypt officials defend crackdown on pro-Morsi camps

Egypt's interim Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi: "Today was a difficult day"

Egypt's interim PM Hazem Beblawi has defended the deadly operation to break up protest camps in Cairo, saying the authorities had to restore security.

Mr Beblawi said it was not an easy decision to disperse the supporters of deposed President Mohammed Morsi.

The government, which has declared a state of emergency, said 235 civilians had been killed nationwide.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which backed the protests, says more than 2,000 people have died in the violence.

Correspondents in Cairo also report seeing many dead, but figures differ widely and have been impossible to verify independently.

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The euphoria that followed the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 feels very distant”

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Police have now taken control of the camps in the capital and are reported to have arrested key Brotherhood leaders.

Police 'professional'

In a televised address, Mr Beblawi expressed regret for the loss of life and said the state of national emergency would be lifted as soon as possible.

The measure, scheduled to last for a month, imposes a curfew in Cairo and several other provinces between 19:00 local time (17:00 GMT) and 06:00.

Mr Beblawi also said police had been given instructions not to use weapons to disperse protesters.

Emergency law in Egypt

  • Curfew in Cairo and other provinces from 19:00 local time (17:00 GMT) to 06:00 local time daily
  • Arrest of suspects deemed dangerous to public order
  • Army to help police maintain security
  • Limited movement of people and traffic
  • Surveillance on messages and monitoring of media

Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim said the police had "dealt professionally" with the protesters, and that 43 police personnel had been killed in violence across the country.

He accused the pro-Morsi protesters of building "fortifications" and "firing birdshot" at the police forces.

The protest sites had been infiltrated by armed gangs, he said, and ammunition had been seized from them.

Across the country, members of the Muslim Brotherhood had been arrested and were being interrogated, Mr Ibrahim said.

In the wake of the violence, Vice-President Mohammed ElBaradei has announced his resignation from the interim government.

"I cannot continue in shouldering the responsibility for decisions I do not agree with and I fear their consequences. I cannot shoulder the responsibility for a single drop of blood," he said in a statement.

The last stand: James Reynolds reports from Cairo on how the day of violence unfolded

Armoured bulldozers moved into the two protest camps in Cairo shortly after dawn on Wednesday morning.

Large plumes of smoke rose over parts of the city as the operation began. Security forces fired tear gas canisters fired and helicopters circled above.

Crisis timeline

  • 3 Jul: President Mohammed Morsi deposed by military after mass protests
  • 4 Jul: Pro-Morsi protesters gather at the Rabaa al-Adawiya and Nahda sites in Cairo
  • 27 Jul: More than 70 people killed in clashes with security forces at Rabaa al-Adawiya
  • 14 Aug: Security forces move in to clear both camps

The smaller camp in Nahda Square was cleared relatively quickly, but clashes raged for most of the day around the main camp near Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque.

Egyptian television said that by evening the security forces had seized full control of the site, and were allowing protesters there to leave.

But several Muslim Brotherhood leaders were reportedly detained, including Essam El-Erian and Mohamed El-Beltagi, whose 17-year-old daughter was reportedly killed.

A cameraman working for Sky News, Mick Deane, was also killed, as was a reporter for Gulf News, Habiba Ahmed Abd Elaziz. She was not working at the time.

There are also reports of unrest elsewhere in Egypt.

  • About 35 people have died in clashes in the province of Fayoum, south of Cairo, Reuters news agency says.
  • At least five people have been killed in the province of Suez, according to the health ministry.
  • Clashes have also been reported in the northern provinces of Alexandria and Beheira, and the central provinces of Assiut and Menya.
  • Seven churches have been damaged or torched across the country, according to interior minister Mohammed Ibrahim.
Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi  in the eastern Nasr City Violence erupted in Cairo as security forces stormed the Muslim Brotherhood supporters' camps
A torn poster of deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi is pictured as riot police clear the area of his supporters at Rabaa Adawiya square The camps were full of supporters of the deposed President, Mohammed Morsi
Security forces break up sit-in at Nahda Square The Egyptian government says the Nahda Square sit-in has now been cleared
A supporter of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi shoots a slingshot at Egyptian security forces But violence continued elsewhere around the city
A protester comforts a wounded man after Egyptian security forces began to clear a sit-in by supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi in the eastern Nasr City district of Cairo, Egypt, Aug 14, 2013 Reports of casualty figures have varied widely
Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi chant slogans as they demonstrate in Egypt's northern coastal city of Alexandria There have been protests against the crackdown in other areas of Egypt, including Alexandria in the north

Supporters of Mr Morsi - Egypt's first freely elected president - have been staging street protests since he was ousted on 3 July. They want him to be reinstated.

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Police snipers are above the nearby school buildings, shooting any resident hurrying to the square”

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He is currently in custody at an undisclosed location, and has been accused of the "premeditated murder of some prisoners, officers and soldiers" during a prison breakout in 2011.

There has been strong international reaction to the storming of the camps.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said the events were "deplorable" and "a real blow to reconciliation efforts".

Violence was "simply not a solution" and ran "counter to Egyptians' aspirations to peace and democracy", he said.

"Violence and continued political polarisation will further tear the Egyptian economy apart."

US Secretary of State John Kerry: "The path towards violence leads only to greater instability"

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement: "We reiterate that violence won't lead to any solution and we urge the Egyptian authorities to proceed with utmost restraint."

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the result of the camp clearances as a massacre, accused other countries of paving the way for the violence by staying silent, and called for the UN and the Arab League to act immediately.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague also condemned the use of force.

Map of Rabaa camp
Map of Nahda square camp

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