15 August, 2013

Death Toll in Egypt Surpasses 600

Death Toll in Egypt Surpasses 600

Mahmoud Khaled/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Bryan Denton for The New York Times

Bryan Denton for The New York Times

Bryan Denton for The New York Times

Tara Todras-Whitehill for The New York Times

Bryan Denton for The New York Times

Tara Todras-Whitehill for The New York Times

Tara Todras-Whitehill for The New York Times

Tara Todras-Whitehill for The New York Times

Bryan Denton for The New York Times.

Tara Todras-Whitehill for The New York Times

Khalil Hamra/Associated Press

Ahmed Gomaa/Associated Press

Egyptians searched through the debris at Rabaa al-Adawiya square.
The New York Times

The events in Cairo set off a violent backlash across Egypt.

"Tough choice. Violent, over-bearing military versus oppressive, overly-zealous religious cult. Good luck Egypt."Christopher McHale, ny
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In defiance of calls for restraint, Egypt’s Interior Ministry warned protesters that police officers were authorized to use lethal force to protect themselves. The ministry also promised to punish any “terrorist actions and sabotage” after at least two government buildings were burned early Thursday.

“The ministry has given instructions to all forces to use live ammunition in the face of any attacks on establishments or forces within the framework of the regulations of using the legitimate right of self-defense,” the ministry said in a statement. “All the forces assigned to securing and protecting these establishments were provided with the weapons and the ammunition necessary to deter any attack that may target them.”

The scorched-earth assault by security forces on Wednesday, which razed two protest camps in Cairo set up by backers of the deposed president, Mohamed Morsi, was far more ferocious and extensive than the gradual pressure promised by the interim government that replaced him.

It was easily the most violent of the three deadly suppressions that have roiled Egypt since Mr. Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, was forcibly removed from power by the armed forces six weeks ago, plunging the country into its worst crisis since the ouster of Mr. Morsi’s authoritarian predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, in the 2011 revolution.

Despite the growing tally of dead, Muslim Brotherhood supporters of Mr. Morsi exhorted followers to take to the streets on Thursday, defying the newly imposed state of emergency and reflecting a backlash against the military-appointed successors to Mr. Morsi’s administration, who appear determined to crush the Islamists as a political force.

Hundreds of Mr. Morsi’s supporters marched through Alexandria, Egypt’s second-largest city, clashing with the police. In Giza, across the Nile from Cairo near the pyramids, Islamists attacked provincial headquarters with Molotov cocktails and set it on fire. Islamists also blocked the main highway encircling Cairo.

In his first response to the Wednesday mass killings, Mr. Obama strongly condemned the Egyptian government’s use of brute force to crush the protests and said the United States had canceled military exercises with the Egypt’s armed forces scheduled for next month. Mr. Obama also warned of further unspecified steps if Egypt’s interim leaders continued down what he called a “more dangerous path.”

But he said nothing about cutting the $1.3 billion in annual military aid that the United States provides to Egypt and acknowledged that the United States had historically regarded the country as a friend and a “cornerstone for peace in the Middle East.”

In Europe, some officials called for a suspension of aid by the European Union, and at least one member state, Denmark, cut off funds. France’s president summoned the Egyptian ambassador to condemn the violence.

A number of prominent international companies, including General Motors of the United States, suspended operations in the country. In Ankara, Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an ally of Mr. Morsi, called for an early meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss what he labeled a “massacre.”

Mohamad Fathallah, the spokesman for Egypt’s Health Ministry, told the official Al Ahram Web site that as of late Thursday, the casualties from the Wednesday violence totaled 638 dead and 3,994 injured.

He said the biggest concentration of killings, numbering 202, had been in the larger of the two protest camps, in the Nasr City suburb, with 87 recorded in the smaller Nahda Square camp near Cairo University. A further 29 deaths were reported from the Helwan area on the outskirts of Cairo, with 207 from other areas around the country.

Adli Mansour, the figurehead president appointed by Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, returning Egypt to the state of virtual martial law that prevailed for three decades under Mr. Mubarak. The government imposed a 7 p.m. curfew in most of the country, closed the banks and shut down all north-south train service. It modified the curfew on Thursday to 9 p.m.

On the streets Thursday morning, the authorities continued to tamp down fires and clean up the debris of the razed protest camps, as many of the city’s residents got their first look at the extent of death and damage.

At one landmark mosque, relatives stood over the bodies of up to 240 dead, shrouded in white and laid out in neat rows. The ice keeping the bodies chilled was melting as household fans played over the makeshift morgue. Many of the bodies seemed to be badly burned. One man slumped against a pillar, his face contorted in grief. By Muslim tradition, the deceased are usually buried within 24 hours of dying.

Clashes and gunfire broke out even in well-heeled precincts of the capital far from the protest camps, leaving anxious residents huddled in their homes and the streets all but emptied of life. Angry Islamists attacked at least a dozen police stations around the country, according to the state news media, killing more than 40 police officers.

They also lashed out at Christians, attacking or burning seven churches, according to the interior minister, Mohamed Ibrahim. Coptic Christian and human rights groups said the number was far higher.

The crackdown followed six weeks of efforts by Western diplomats to broker a political resolution that might persuade the Islamists to abandon their protests and rejoin a renewed democratic process despite the military’s removal of Mr. Morsi. But the brutality of the attack seemed to extinguish any such hopes.

The assault prompted the resignation of the interim vice president, Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Prize laureate and former diplomat who had lent his reputation to selling the West on the democratic goals of the military takeover.

“We have reached a state of harder polarization and more dangerous division, with the social fabric in danger of tearing, because violence only begets violence,” Mr. ElBaradei wrote in a public letter to the president. “The beneficiaries of what happened today are the preachers of violence and terrorism, the most extremist groups,” he said, “and you will remember what I am telling you.”

David D. Kirkpatrick reported from Cairo, and Alan Cowell from London. Reporting was contributed by Kareem Fahim and Mayy El Sheikh from Cairo, Scott Sayare from Paris, Rick Gladstone from New York and Isabel Kershner from Jerusalem.

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