Bloodbath in Cairo, Egypt, leaves 278 people dead, including Sky News cameraman Mick Deane, VP Mohamed ElBaradei resigns
- Egypt declared a state of emergency
- Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei resigns
- Sky News cameraman Mick Deane among dead
SECURITY forces stormed two huge Cairo protest camps supporting ousted president Mohamed Morsi, leaving at least 278 people dead in a bloodbath.
The health ministry said 235 people were killed in clashes across Egypt with at least another 2000 people injured.
Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim said an additional 43 policemen died in the assault. He said Morsi supporters attacked 21 police stations and seven Coptic Christian churches across the nation, and assaulted the Finance Ministry in Cairo, occupying its ground floor.
It was the highest single day death toll since the 18-day uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Dramatic images have emerged of a police vehicle being surrounded by a mob then pushed off a a bridge during the clashes.
A police vehicle is pushed off of the 6th of October bridge by protesters close to the largest sit-in by supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in the eastern Nasr City district of Cairo. (AP Photo/Aly Hazzaa, El Shorouk Newspaper)
A police vehicle is pushed off of the 6th of October bridge by protesters during bloody clashes in Cairo and other cities in Egypt. (AP Photo/Aly Hazzaa, El Shorouk Newspaper)
The police van smashes into the ground after it was ambushed by protesters and pushed off the 6th of October bridge. (AP Photo/Sabry Khaled, El Shorouk Newspaper)
A member of the security forces lies on the ground and another on his police vehicle that was pushed off the 6th of October bridge by protester. (AP Photo/Sabry Khaled)
An Egyptian security force kicks a supporter of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi as they clear a sit-in camp set up near Cairo University in Cairo’s Giza district, Egypt.
The van plunged off the 6th October Bridge before demonstrators attacked the wreckage. It is not known how many people were on board and how many people survived the fall, but bloodied men were seen lying around the van moments afterwards.
Egyptian vice president, Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, announced his resignation in a letter to the interim president saying he did not want to be responsible for “a single drop of blood.”
“It has become too difficult to continue bearing responsibility for decisions I do not agree with and whose consequences I fear,” Mr ElBaradei said.
He said his conscience was troubled over the loss of life “particularly as I believe it could have been avoided”.
“Unfortunately those who gain from what happened today are those who call for violence and terror, the extremist groups,” he said.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said the escalating violence had dealt a “serious blow” to political reconciliation efforts between the military-backed interim government and Morsi’s supporters.
“This is a pivotal moment for all Egyptians,” Kerry said. “The path toward violence leads only to greater instability, economic disaster and suffering.”
As clashes raged in the capital, three churches were attacked in central Egypt, with Christian activists accusing Morsi loyalists of waging “a war of retaliation against Copts in Egypt”.
A Sky News cameraman, Mick Deane, who was covering the violence in Cairo, was one of the victims. UK Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted that he was saddened to hear of Deane’s death.
Habiba Ahmed Abd Elaziz, 26, a reporter for the Gulf News, a state-backed newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, was also killed.
Rassd news, a pro-Islamist network, has reported one of their photojournalists – Mosabg El-Shami – had been shot dead in Cairo.
State-run newspaper Al Akhbar reports one of its journalists, Ahmed Abdel Gawad, was killed in Rabaa.
Egypt declared a month-long state of emergency, announced by a presidency statement read out on state television, which began at 4pm (Midnight AEST). The nighttime curfew affects Cairo and 10 provinces.
The exceptional 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.
The Egyptian Central Bank instructed commercial banks to close branches in areas affected by the chaos, a sign of alarm that the violence could spiral out of control. The landmark Giza Pyramids and the Egyptian Museum also were closed to visitors for the day as a precaution, according to the Ministry of Antiquities.
The violence drew condemnation from other predominantly Muslim countries, but also from the UN and the United States, with Secretary of State John Kerry saying it had dealt a “serious blow” to political reconciliation efforts in Egypt.
A protester comforts a wounded colleague after Egyptian security forces began to clear a sit-in by supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in the eastern Nasr City district of Cairo, Egypt.
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 assault to take control of the two sit-in sites came after days of warnings by the interim administration that replaced Mr Morsi after he was ousted in a July 3 coup. The camps on opposite sides of the Egyptian capital began in late June to show support for Mr Morsi. Protesters – many from Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood – have demanded his reinstatement.
In a field hospital, its floors slippery with blood, doctors struggled to cope with the casualties, leaving the hopeless cases, even if still alive.
Security officials had spoken of a gradual dispersal of the sit-ins over several days but the dramatic descent on the squares shortly after dawn came as a surprise to many.
AUSSIES WARNED TO AVOID PUBLIC GATHERINGS
Australians in Egypt have been warned to stay away from public gatherings.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) today confirmed that Australians should reconsider the need to travel to the north African nation.
Sky News cameraman Mick Deane has been shot and killed in Egypt
“Australians who remain in Egypt should avoid all demonstrations, protests and large crowds as they may turn violent,” DFAT said in a travel warning issued today.
Travellers remaining in Egypt should closely monitor media reports warning of civil unrest hotspots.
The department website reports “a number of abductions involving foreign nationals” with some tourists being held by gunmen in regional parts of Egypt.
AL-AZHAR DISTANCES ITSELF FROM PROTEST CRACKDOWN
Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s main seat of learning, which sided with the military in its overthrow of Mr Morsi on July 3, distanced itself from the crackdown.
“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.
Witnesses and an AFP correspondent said after firing tear gas security forces surged into Rabaa al-Adawiya, sparking pandemonium among the thousands of protesters who had set up the camp soon after Mr Morsi was ousted.
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 greatest.)
Mohamed ElBaradei has resigned as Vice President after the Egyptian bloodbath.
Clashes quickly erupted between protesters and security forces on the outskirts of the camp, with automatic fire reverberating across the square.
Protest leaders wearing gas masks stood defiantly on a stage while crowds of people wearing face masks stood amid the swirling tear gas as bulldozers began dismantling the camp.
In the smaller of the protest camps at Al-Nahda square in central Cairo, police said they took control of the square 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.
The violence came amid international appeals for calm.
The US gave a stern warning to Egypt’s leaders, with John Kerry condemning the violence as well as the restoration of emergency rule. He urged them to calm the situation.
In this image made from video, police fire tear gas at supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi in Alexandria, Egypt.
“This is a pivotal moment for all Egyptians,” said Mr Kerry, who spoke by phone with the foreign minister. “The path toward violence leads only to greater instability, economic disaster and suffering.”
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office called it “a serious blow to the hopes of a return to democracy,” while Iran warned that the violence “strengthens the possibility of civil war.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron, who also condemned the violence, called for “a genuine transition to a genuine democracy. That means compromise from all sides – the President Morsi supporters but also the military.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged all Egyptians to focus on reconciliation, while European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said dialogue should be encouraged through “peaceful protest, protecting all citizens and enabling full political participation.”
The United States, which provides $1.5 billion in mostly military aid to Egypt every year, maintains close ties to the Egyptian military but says it favours a rapid return to elected civilian rule.
TENSION HAS BEEN ESCALATING
It was a dramatic turn of events for the Muslim Brotherhood, who just over a year ago celebrated Mr Morsi’s win as Egypt’s first elected president.
But his turbulent year in power, marred by political turmoil, deadly clashes and a crippling economic crisis, turned many against the Islamist movement.
A member of the Egyptian security forces speaks to a woman holding a stick at they clear a sit-in by supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.
On June 30, millions took to the streets to call on the army to remove Mr Morsi.
Mr Morsi’s 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 spokesman Gehad al-Haddad said on Twitter.
The Rabaa al-Adawiya protest camp, where several Brotherhood leaders had been staying, “is calling on Egyptians to take to the streets to stop the massacre,” Mr Haddad said.
But the anger against the Islamist movement was evident Wednesday as residents of several neighbourhoods clashed with Morsi loyalists.
In Cairo, supporters of the deposed president blocked several roads in the central Mohandesseen neighbourhood, and were working to set up a new protest camp there, witnesses said.
Police were deployed in the area where tear gas was fired and gunshots heard.
Clashes also erupted between security forces and Morsi loyalists in the northern provinces of Alexandria and Beheira, the canal provinces of Suez and Ismailiya and the central provinces of Assiut and Menya.
Supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi gather around a police vehicle that was pushed off of the 6th of October bridge by protesters.
In Menya, witnesses said the Saint Ibram and Virgin Mary church and the Saint Mina church were torched.
Assailants also threw firebombs at Mar Gergiss church in Sohag, a city with a large community of Coptic Christians who comprise up to 10 per cent of Egypt’s 84 million people, causing it to burn down, the agency said.
Coptic Pope Tawadros II, together with Al-Azhar’s Tayyeb, had supported the military and sat by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi when he announced that Mr Morsi had been deposed and laid out a new political roadmap for the country.
As authorities struggled to contain the unrest in the country, Egypt’s railway authorities announced that all trains had been grounded to prevent protesters from moving outside of Cairo and reassembling.
Egyptian security forces carry an injured comrade after a police crackdown on a protest camp near Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque. . Picture: AFP
Supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi run from Egyptian security forces firing towards them during clashes in Cairo’s Nasr City district, Egypt.
A supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt’s ousted president Mohamed Morsi looks on during clashes with security forces in Cairo.