August 14, 2013
Published Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Updated at 7:20pm: Egypt’s interim vice president and Nobel peace prize recipient Mohammed ElBaradei sent a resignation letter on Wednesday, amid a bloody military crackdown on supporters of ousted president Mohammed Mursi.
In a resignation letter to Interim President Adly Mansour, ElBaradei said that “the beneficiaries of what happened today are those who call for violence, terrorism and the most extreme groups.”
“As you know, I saw that there were peaceful ways to end this clash in society, there were proposed and acceptable solutions for beginnings that would take us to national consensus,” he wrote.
“It has become difficult for me to continue bearing responsibility for decisions that I do not agree with and whose consequences I fear. I cannot bear the responsibility for one drop of blood.”
Egypt has declared a month-long state of emergency in Cairo and 11 other provinces Wednesday, as the country’s health ministry said that 149 people had been killed in the clashes when security forces tried to clear a camp of Cairo protesters who were demanding the Mursi’s reinstatement.
“The dead are both from police and civilians. We are waiting to get more details,” said the ministry’s spokesman, Hamdi Abdel Karim, adding that 874 people had been wounded.
The nationwide state of emergency will begin at 7:00pm, before sunset, and run until 6:00am, the presidency said in a statement read out on state television.
It applies to the provinces of Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Ismailiya Beni Sueif, Menya, Assiut, Sohag, Beheira, North Sinai, South Sinai and Suez.
The measures came as “the security and order of the nation face danger due to deliberate sabotage, and attacks on public and private buildings and the loss of life by extremist groups,” the presidency said.
Interim president Adly Mansour “has tasked the armed forces, in cooperation with the police, to take all necessary measures to maintain security and order and to protect public and private property and the lives of citizens.”
The United Nations said it appeared that several hundreds have been killed in the clashes. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned violence used by Egyptian security forces to clear Cairo of protesters.
Meanwhile, Mursi supporters torched three churches in central Egypt on Wednesday, reports said.
Thousands of Mursi supporters awoke at the Rabaa al-Adawiya sit-in in northeast Cairo to police helicopters circling over the site.
A second camp near Cairo University was swiftly cleared in the early morning.
The operation, which suggested that the powerful military had lost patience with persistent protests for the past six weeks denouncing the army’s toppling of Mursi.
Gunfire rang out as protesters ran away from Rabaa, and clouds of black smoke rose above the sites. Armored vehicles moved in alongside bulldozers which began clearing away tents, and one witness said he saw 15 bodies at a field hospital.
“It is nasty inside, they are destroying our tents. We can’t breath inside and many people are in hospital,” Murad Ahmad said at the edge of the sprawling camp, where Muslim Brotherhood guards had positioned sandbags in anticipation of a police raid.
Live television footage showed medics wearing gas masks and swimming goggles as they treated the wounded.
Six members of the Egyptian security forces were killed, state TV reported, quoting the Interior Ministry.
The operation, which began at around 7:00am, came after international efforts failed to mediate an end to a six-week political standoff between Mursi’s supporters and the army-backed government which took power after his ouster on July 3.
Several media have reported that several journalists had been killed during the clashes, although the details remained unclear.
The teenage daughter of a senior Muslim Brotherhood leader was reported killed in the crackdown, Brotherhood spokesman Gehad al-Haddad said.
The breakup of the camps could strip the Brotherhood of its main leverage against the military-backed government. Some of the group’s leaders have been arrested or are wanted and their assets frozen in one of the toughest crackdowns it has ever faced.
The government issued a statement saying security forces had showed the “utmost degree of self-restraint”, reflected in low casualties compared to the number of people “and the volume of weapons and violence directed against the security forces”.
A Reuters witness saw soldiers fire at protesters as they tried to enter the besieged Rabaa camp in solidarity with other Mursi supporters. At least 20 were shot in the legs. Television pictures showed security forces shooting from nearby rooftops.
“Tear gas was falling from the sky like rain. There are no ambulances inside. They closed every entrance,” said protester Khaled Ahmad, 20, a university student wearing a hard hat with tears streaming down his face.”There are women and children in there. God help them. This is a siege, a military attack on a civilian protest camp.”
A Reuters correspondent saw dozens of people lying in the street with bullet and birdshot wounds. Pools of blood were everywhere.
“At 7:00am 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.”
Protesters ripped branches off trees to try to put out fires that spread through tents. Others smashed the pavement, grabbed chunks of cement and hurled them at police.
According to private news channel CBC, an interior ministry official revealed that several Brotherhood leaders had been arrested, without identifying them.
Egyptian authorities stopped all train services in and out of Cairo on Wednesday to prevent Mursi supporters from reassembling after being dispersed from protest camps in the capital.
“Train services in and out of Cairo in all directions have been stopped until further notice… for security reasons and to prevent people from mobilizing,” the railway authority said.
Egypt’s al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s main seat of learning, on Wednesday distanced itself from the crackdown on protesters loyal to Mursi.
“Al-Azhar stresses to all Egyptians that it did not know about the methods used for the dispersal of the protests except through media channels,” Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayyeb said in a televised statement.
Tayyeb condemned any use of violence and called on all sides to “exercise self-restraint and take into account the interests of the nation.”
“The use of violence has never been an alternative to a political solution,” he said.
Cairo’s downtown is emptying out, people are scared and going home, in certain neighborhoods popular committees are being formed.
Hundreds of angry supporters of Mursi marched through Egypt’s second city of Alexandria rioting and armed with wooden clubs, an AFP reporter said.
Chanting “Mursi is my president”, the protesters set fire to car tires and tore down pictures of army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who was behind the Islamist leader’s July 3 overthrow.
At one cafe where Sisi’s picture was hanging, they smashed the doors and beat up the patrons as they shouted “Sisi is a killer.”
In the Ibrahimiya district, they stormed a police station and looted furniture and equipment inside, an AFP reporter said.
Earlier, in another part of Alexandria, tear gas canisters rained down on a pro-Mursi march in the Sharq neighborhood, amid repeated bursts of automatic gunfire.
Hundreds of Mursi loyalists had marched through the city when police fired tear gas to disperse them.
Residents, armed with clubs, came out of their homes and shops to help the police, detaining Mursi supporters and handing them over to officers at Sharq police station.
Mursi supporters, carrying Egyptian flags and pictures of the deposed leader, then clashed with his opponents on a road carpeted with rocks.
Officials said at least one person was killed in the Alexandria violence and that 10 people were injured.
A group of Mursi followers threw firebombs at Mar Gergiss church in Sohag, a city with a large community of Coptic Christians who comprise up to 10 percent of Egypt’s 84 million people, causing it to burn down, the official MENA news agency said.
The diocese in Sohag
Security officials told AFP that another two churches were attacked in el-Menia province, leaving them partially damaged by fire.
Coptic rights group the Maspero Youth Union reported the same information, accusing the Muslim Brotherhood movement of “waging a war of retaliation” against the country’s Christians.
The Coptic church backed Mursi’s removal, with Patriarch Tawadros II appearing alongside army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as he announced the military coup on July 3.
At least 35 people were killed in the Egyptian province of Fayoum, south of Cairo, the health ministry said, following fighting at police stations between Mursi supporters and the security forces.
Mursi followers attacked at least two police stations in Fayoum, setting fire to police vehicles outside one, witnesses said. There were also clashes outside the provincial governor’s offices.
At least five people were killed in Suez, a health ministry official said, when Brotherhood supporters tried to storm the provincial governor’s office, setting an armored vehicle on fire, witnesses reported.
More than 300 people have already died in political violence since the army overthrew Mursi on July 3, a majority of them Mursi supporters killed by security forces.
Mursi became Egypt’s first freely elected leader in June 2012 but failed to tackle deep economic malaise and worried many Egyptians with his apparent efforts to tighten Islamist rule.
(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)