Death toll in Egypt rises to over 500
A national state of emergency has been declared in Egypt after the interim government’s crackdown on demonstrators left over 500 people dead.
The violence began on Wednesday when around 300 people died after security forces using bulldozers demolished two camps in Cairo occupied by supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi.
Troops fired teargas and live ammunition at protesters in dawn raids that came after two weeks of warnings for them to evacuate. The Muslim Brotherhood has demanded the reinstatement of Morsi – a proposal which has been rejected outright by their political rivals.
The interim government and its supporters remain defiant in the face of the rising death toll and amid widespread condemnation of Wednesday’s massacre. The international community has deplored the actions taken to disperse the demonstrators, with UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon denouncing the violence, urging an effort at “inclusive reconciliation”.
The White House has criticised the imposition of a state of emergency in Egypt, and foreign secretary William Hague noted he was deeply concerned by the escalating violence. “I condemn the use of force in clearing protests and call on the security forces to act with restraint,” he said.
The Egyptian prime minister, Hazem el-Beblawi, said the crackdown was necessary to return stability to Egypt, and praised security forces for what he described as maximum restraint, despite the hundreds of fatalities – including 43 members of the police – and the thousands of people left injured.
He said: “Egypt cannot move forward, especially economically, in the absence of security.” The interior minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, further added that the protesters had “threatened national security, incited violence and tortured and killed people,” despite reports that demonstrations at both camps had been overwhelmingly peaceful.
In a week that has seen many deaths – including that of Sky News cameraman Mick Deane, who was shot covering the violence in Cairo – and the destruction of Coptic Christian churches in apparent revenge attacks, a curfew has been announced and imposed under Mubarak-era laws.
Month-long and running from 7.00pm to 6.00am in twelve cities across the country, the curfew is alleged to have already been breached by Morsi supporters as the Islamists vow to defy any sanctions placed upon them.
More than 50 Muslim Brotherhood supporters were killed on 8th July in a raid on a pro-Morsi demonstration and at least 65 more died at the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque three weeks later.