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Egypt faces new uncertainty

15 August 2013, 13:07

Cairo - Egypt faced a new phase of uncertainty on Thursday after the bloodiest day since its Arab Spring began, with nearly 327 people reported killed and thousands injured as police smashed two protest camps of supporters of the deposed Islamist president.

Wednesday's raids touched off day-long street violence that prompted the military-backed interim leaders to impose a state of emergency and curfew, and drew widespread condemnation from the Muslim world and the West, including the United States.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei resigned as Egypt's interim vice president in protest — a blow to the new leadership's credibility with the pro-reform movement.

Interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi said in a televised address to the nation that it was a "difficult day" and that he regretted the bloodshed but offered no apologies for moving against the supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, saying they were given ample warnings to leave and he had tried foreign mediation efforts.

The leaders of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood called it a "massacre". Several of them were detained as police swept through the two sit-in sites, scores of other Islamists were taken into custody, and the future of the once-banned movement was uncertain.

Backed by helicopters, police fired tear gas and used armoured bulldozers to plough into the barricades at the two protest camps in different sections of Cairo where the Morsi supporters had been camped since before he was ousted by the military 3 July.

The smaller camp — near Cairo University in Giza — was cleared of protesters relatively quickly, but it took about 12 hours for police to take control of the main sit-in site near the Rabaah al-Adawiya Mosque in Nasr City that has served as the epicenter of the pro-Morsi campaign and had drawn chanting throngs of men, women and children only days earlier.

After the police moved on the camps, street battles broke out in Cairo and other cities across Egypt. Government buildings and police stations were attacked, roads were blocked, and Christian churches were torched, Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim said.

At one point, protesters trapped a police Humvee on an overpass near the Nasr City camp and pushed it off, according to images posted on social networking sites that showed an injured policeman on the ground below, near a pool of blood and the overturned vehicle.

The Health Ministry said 235 civilians were killed and more than 2 000 injured, while Ibrahim said 43 policemen died in the violence. The death toll was expected to rise.

- AP


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