Over 200 dead after Egypt forces crush protesters
Updated: 2013-08-15 06:29
Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi flee from tear gas and rubber bullets fired by riot police during clashes, on a bridge leading to Rabba el Adwia Square where they are camping, in Cairo August 14, 2013.[Photo/Agencies]
DEAD BODIES, SMASHED SKULLS
After shooting with live ammunition began, wounded and dead lay on the streets among pools of blood. An area of the camp that had been a playground and art exhibition for the children of protesters was turned into a war-zone field hospital.
Seven dead bodies were lined up in the street, one of them a teenager whose skull was smashed, with blood pouring from the back of his head.
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. A man was killed by a bullet to the head.
The government insists people in the camp were armed. Television stations 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.
Reuters journalists and other Western media did not witness such incidents. The crowds appeared to be armed mainly with sticks, stones and concrete slabs against police and troops with rifles.
The violence was the worst in Egypt since war with Israel in 1973 and forces tough decisions upon Egypt's Western allies, especially Washington, which funds Egypt's military with $1.5 billion a year and has so far refused to label the army's overthrow of Morsi a "coup".
"The United States strongly condemns the use of violence against protesters in Egypt," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. "We extend our condolences to the families of those who have been killed, and to the injured. We have repeatedly called on the Egyptian military and security forces to show restraint."
"We also strongly oppose a return to a State of Emergency law, and call on the government to respect basic human rights such as freedom of peaceful assembly, and due process under the law. The world is watching what is happening in Cairo."
The United States and Europe had pressed hard for Egypt's generals not to crush the demonstrators. A diplomatic effort to open talks between the Brotherhood and the authorities, backed by Washington, Brussels and Arab states, collapsed last week.
Among the dead in Cairo were at least two journalists. A Reuters photographer was shot in the foot.
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.
Adli Mansour, the judge appointed president by the army when it overthrew Egypt's first elected leader on July 3, announced a state of emergency for one month and called on the armed forces to help police enforce security. Rights activists said the move would give legal cover for the army to make arrests.
Turkey urged the UN Security Council and Arab League to act quickly to stop a "massacre" in Egypt. Iran warned of the risk of civil war. The European Union and several of its member countries deplored the killings.
Mursi became Egypt's first freely elected leader in June 2012, but failed to tackle a deep economic malaise and worried many Egyptians with apparent efforts to tighten Islamist rule.
Liberals and young Egyptians staged huge rallies demanding that he resign, and the army said it had removed him in response to the will of the people. Since he was deposed, Gulf Arab states have pledged $12 billion in aid, buying the interim government valuable time to try to put its finances back in order.
By late afternoon, the campsite where Mursi's supporters had maintained their vigil for six weeks was empty. One man stood alone in the wreckage reciting the central tenet of Islam through a loudspeaker: "There is no God but Allah."
He wept, and then his voice broke off into silence.