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Rediff.com  » News » 525 killed in deadliest crackdown on Morsi supporters in Egypt

525 killed in deadliest crackdown on Morsi supporters in Egypt

Last updated on: August 15, 2013 18:41 IST

Egypt's defiant Muslim Brotherhood on Thursday vowed to bring down the military-backed government as it called for a massive anti-regime rally, a day after over 525 people were killed in the deadliest crackdown by security forces on supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.

The health ministry said the death toll from nationwide violence in Egypt has climbed to 525, making it the bloodiest day since the Arab Spring in 2011 toppled longtime President Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising.

"We will always be non-violent and peaceful. We remain strong, defiant and resolved," Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad wrote on his Twitter feed.

 "We will push (forward) until we bring down this military coup," he added.

 Nationwide protests erupted on Wednesday after the crackdown by security forces on supporters of 62-year-old Morsi in Cairo and elsewhere killed hundreds of people. The protesters were demanding reinstatement of Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president, who was deposed by the army on July 3.

Meanwhile, Brotherhood has said it planned to march in the capital, Cairo, today against the crackdown that, it claimed, left 2,000 people dead.

"Marches are planned this afternoon from Al-Iman mosque to protest the deaths," the Islamist group said in a statement even as the country remained in a state of emergency.

Egyptian interior ministry said that at least 43 police officers were also killed and more than 3,500 people injured during countrywide clashes yesterday after security forces evicted supporters of Morsi from two protest camps in Cairo.

Egypt's army-backed interim Prime Minister defended the deadly operation by security forces against supporters of Morsi camped at Rabaa al-Adaweya and al-Nahda.

In a televised statement, Hazem el-Beblawi yesterday said the decision to break up the protests "was not easy" and came only after the government had given mediation efforts a chance.

"We found that matters had reached a point that no self respecting state could accept," he said, citing what he describes as "the spread of anarchy and attacks on hospitals and police stations".

Police and troops used bulldozers, teargas and live fire to clear out two Cairo sit-ins that had become a hub of Muslim Brotherhood protests against the military.

The government yesterday imposed a month-long emergency after riot police backed by armoured vehicles, bulldozers and helicopters cleared the two encampments of Morsi supporters.

Security forces shot dead scores of people in their assault on the camps, defying international pleas to show restraint after a six-week stand-off with Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood supporters, Al Jazeera news channel reported.

Vice-President Mohamed ElBaradei resigned on Wednesday, saying peaceful means could still have been found to end the confrontation, but other members of the government have rallied behind the decision to use force.

ElBaradei announced his resignation saying that, "(he) can no longer bear responsibility for decisions that (he does not) agree with, and whose repercussions he dreads. (He) cannot be responsible for a single drop of blood before God, (his) conscience, and (his) people, especially that (he) believes the dropping of that blood could have been avoided."

ElBaradei's resignation sparked mixed reaction among Egyptian youth and political elite alike. Tamarrod (Rebel) movement accused ElBaradie of "quitting at a historic moment".

Meanwhile, Beblawi said the emergency would be for the shortest period possible. He said that the government was committed to an army-backed road map to restore democracy.

The measure, scheduled to last for a month, also imposes a curfew in Cairo and several other provinces between 7 pm(10:30 pm IST) and 6:00 am (9:30 am IST).

"There was a need for the state to intervene with an extraordinary measure which is the emergency law. God willing, we will continue. We will build our democratic, civilian state," he said.

Two journalists were killed during the violence on Wednesday. Mick Deane, a cameraman for the UK-based Sky News channel, and Habiba Abd Elaziz, a reporter for the UAE-based Xpress newspaper, died from bullet wounds.

International condemnation of the violence was swift, with the US Secretary of State John Kerry calling it "deplorable".

The United Nations, the European Union, Britain, France, Iran, Qatar and Turkey strongly denounced the use of force by the military-backed interim government.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called on security forces to "exercise utmost restraint".

The interior ministry had issued a statement earlier saying security forces were taking "necessary measures" against the protesters.

In a press conference, the cabinet media adviser yesterday thanked the security forces for "exercising self-control and high-level professionalism in dispersing the sit-ins," and held the Muslim Brotherhood responsible for "escalation and violence".

Witnesses said that after firing tear gas into the Rabaa al-Adawiyeh sit-in, pandemonium struck among the thousands of protesters.

Image: Members of the Muslim Brotherhood flee from tear gas and rubber bullets fired by riot police during clashes in Cairo

Photograph: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

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