The BBC’s Hugh Sykes in Cairo witnessed a protester trying to stop a tank in its tracks “like Tiananmen Square”
Egypt has declared a month-long state of emergency after scores of people were killed when security forces stormed protest camps in Cairo.
The camps had been occupied by supporters of former president Mohammed Morsi, who was deposed in early July.
State media say the security forces are now in control of the two main camps.
The health ministry says 149 people were killed – but the Muslim Brotherhood, which was behind the protests, says more than 2,000 died.
The state of emergency is scheduled to last for a month. It imposes a curfew in Cairo and several other provinces between 19:00 local time (17:00 GMT) and 06:00.
The measure was taken because 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 in a statement.
Vice-President Mohammed El Baradei has announced his resignation from the interim government in the wake of the violence.
“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.
Armoured bulldozers moved deep into the main protest camp outside Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque shortly after dawn on Wednesday morning.
Officials say another protest camp, at Nahda Square, has been cleared and a mopping-up operation in the surrounding streets was under way.
Reporters described wounded protesters being treated next to the dead in makeshift field hospitals.
The 17-year-old daughter of leading Muslim Brotherhood figure Mohamed el-Beltagy was among the dead, reports say. Asmaa el-Beltagy was shot in the back and chest, her brother said.
A cameraman working for Sky News, Mick Deane, has also been killed – as has a reporter for Gulf News, Habiba Ahmed Abd Elaziz.
At the scene
Shortly before seven in the morning, from a street corner near the Rabaa mosque encampment, I watched the raid begin.
An armoured military bulldozer drove down towards the barricades on the edges of the encampment. The bulldozer pushed its way through rows of bricks and sandbags. Pro-Morsi protesters responded by throwing stones and burning tyres.
At the same time, riot police in armoured personnel carriers advanced through nearby streets. For more than two hours I heard the crack of live ammunition. The sharp bangs were accompanied by the deeper thud of tear gas explosions.
For a while, it was hard to breathe without a gas mask. Some local residents held handkerchiefs to their faces – and watched the police deployment from their balconies.
The White House condemned the bloodshed, saying it “runs directly counter to the pledges by the interim government to pursue reconciliation”.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged “all Egyptians to concentrate their efforts on promoting genuinely inclusive reconciliation”, his spokesman Martin Nesirky said.
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
- Hundreds are said to have gathered outside the governor’s office in Aswan in the south
- State news agency Mena says three churches were attacked, one in the city of Sohag with a large number of Coptic Christian residents
It is still unclear how many casualties were caught up in the two Cairo operations. Figures differ widely and have been impossible to verify independently.
BBC Arabic’s Khaled Ezzelarab says he counted at least 50 bodies at the makeshift hospitals around Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque. He said the injured were too numerous to count.
The health ministry has issued an official death toll of 95.
The interior ministry earlier denied any deaths were caused by its forces firing live ammunition.
“Security forces used only tear gas canisters to disperse the protesters though it was heavily fired at by armed elements from inside the two protest camps, causing the death of an officer and a conscript and the injury of four policemen and two conscripts,” the ministry said in a statement.
The government had congratulated the security forces on their operation.
In a televised statement, a government spokesman praised their “self-restraint” and spoke of the “smaller number” of injuries among protesters.
The government would decisively confront attempts to attack state buildings and police stations, he said.