Wednesday, August 14, 2013

At least 278 killed, 2000 injured after Egypt clashes - TVNZ

The death toll after violent clashes when Egyptian security forces broke up pro-Morsi protest camps has risen to 278.

A state news agency quoted a health official as saying that 278 had been killed and more than 2000 had been wounded.

Security forces crushed a protest camp of thousands of supporters of the deposed president, opening fire and shooting dead scores of people in the bloodiest day in decades.

Deposed President Mohamed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood called it a "massacre".

Forty-three members of Egypt's police force were among those killed, the interior minister said.

While dead 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 in 2011.

After the assault on the camp began, desperate residents recited Koranic verse and screamed "God help us! God help us!" while helicopters hovered overhead and armoured bulldozers ploughed over their makeshift defences.

Reuters journalists on the scene saw masked police in dark uniforms pour out of police vans with sticks and tear gas bombs. They tore down tents and set them ablaze.

"They smashed through our walls. Police and soldiers, they fired tear gas at children," said Saleh Abdulaziz, 39, a secondary school teacher clutching a bleeding wound on his head.

With the assault on the camps, the authorities have ended the six-week stand-off with a show of state force that defied international pleas for restraint.

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 leave the streets until he was returned to power.

Since Morsi was toppled, the security forces have twice before killed scores of protesters in an attempt to drive Morsi's followers off the streets.

Violence spread beyond Cairo, with Morsi supporters and security forces clashing in the cities of Alexandria, Minya, Assiut, Fayoum and Suez and in Buhayra and Beni Suef provinces.

Dead bodies, smashed skulls

After shooting with live ammunition began, wounded and dead lay on the streets near pools of blood. An area of the camp that had been a playground and art exhibit for the children of protesters was turned into a war-zone field hospital.

At another location in Cairo, a Reuters reporter was in a crowd of Morsi supporters when he heard bullets whizzing past and hitting walls. The crowd dived to the ground for cover.

The government insists people in the camp were armed. Several television stations, all controlled by the state or its sympathisers, ran footage of what appeared to be pro-Morsi protesters firing rifles at soldiers from behind sandbag barricades.

However Reuters journalists and other Western media have not witnessed such incidents. Crowds appeared to be armed mainly with sticks, stones and slabs of concrete against rifle-wielding police and troops.

At a makeshift morgue at the camp field hospital, a Reuters reporter counted 29 bodies, with others still arriving. Most had died of gunshot wounds to the head.

A 12-year-old boy, bare-chested with tracksuit trousers, lay out in the corridor, a bullet wound through his neck. His mother was bent over him, rocking back and forth and silently kissing his chest. One of the nurses was sobbing on her hands and knees as she tried to mop up the blood with a roll of tissue.


Outside of Cairo, state media said Morsi supporters besieged and set fire to government buildings and attacked several churches. Those reports could not be independently confirmed.

Mohamed El-Beltagi, Brotherhood leader, said his 17-year-old daughter had been killed in the clashes. Among the other dead were at least two journalists. A Reuters photographer was shot in the foot.

A curfew was imposed in Cairo, Alexandria and several provinces from 7pm to 6am

Nine hours after the start of Wednesday's operation, crowds of protesters were still blocking roads, chanting and waving flags as security forces sought to prevent them from regrouping.

"At 7am they came. Helicopters from the top and bulldozers from below. They smashed through our walls. Police and soldiers, they fired tear gas at children," said teacher Saleh Abdulaziz, 39, clutching a bleeding wound on his head.

"They continued to fire at protesters even when we begged them to stop."

By late afternoon, the campsite where Morsi's supporters had maintained their vigil for six weeks was empty.

Copyright © 2013, Television New Zealand Limited. Breaking and Daily News, Sport & Weather | TV ONE, TV2 | Ondemand
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