14 August, 2013

Egypt declares national emergency

Egypt declares national emergency

One local resident says there is "complete terror" on the streets of Cairo
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Egypt's presidency has declared a 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.

Security forces say 95 people have been killed, but the Muslim Brotherhood says hundreds have died.

The state of emergency will begin at 16:00 local time (1400 GMT), and last for a month.

Shortly after dawn on Wednesday morning, armoured bulldozers moved deep into the main protest camp outside the eastern Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque.

Officials say the other protest camp, at Nahda Square, has now been cleared.

Graphic accounts of bloodshed emerged from the protest camps as 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 in the violence.

There were reports of unrest elsewhere in Egypt.
At least five people have been killed in the province of Suez, according to the health ministry. Witnesses say Morsi supporters attempted to storm government buildings there
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
Morsi supporters are reported to have blocked roads in Alexandria
State news agency Mena says three churches were attacked in central Egypt, one in the city of Sohag with a large number of Coptic Christian residents

The interior ministry said a mopping-up operation in the streets surrounding Nahda Square was under way.

Pro-Morsi activists were chased into the nearby zoo and Cairo University, Nile TV said.

At the scene
James ReynoldsBBC News, Cairo

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.
BBC witnesses clearance

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.

Khaled Ezzelarab, a reporter for the BBC Arabic service, said he counted at least 50 bodies at the makeshift hospitals around Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque.

Ikhwanonline, the website of the Muslim Brotherhood, which supports the protests, says that in total more than 800 were killed.

The health ministry has issued an official death toll of 95.

The interior ministry 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 has meanwhile congratulated the security forces on their operation to clear the camps.

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.


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