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Supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi carry another as Egyptian security forces clear a sit-in camp set up near Cairo University in Cairo's Giza district, Egypt,.
Associated Press/Photo by Mohammed Asad
Supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi carry another as Egyptian security forces clear a sit-in camp set up near Cairo University in Cairo's Giza district, Egypt,.

Cairo crackdown

Egypt | As security forces disperse pro-Morsi crowds, churches burn and local Christians describe the chaos

UPDATE (Aug. 15, 8:50 a.m. EDT): The death toll has risen to 525 this morning.

UPDATE (Aug. 14, 9:30 p.m. EDT) The death toll in Egypt climbed to 281, as clashes continued between Egyptian security forces and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi. Attacks also continued on churches throughout the country, and the Bible Society of Egypt reported protesters burned down its bookstores in Assuit and Minia.

A spokeswoman for the American Bible Society said colleagues in Egypt reported demonstrators had attacked some 15 churches and three Christian schools, setting some on fire. (See more details on church attacks in our earlier reports below.)

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The spokeswoman said Ramez Atallah of the Bible Society of Egypt noted that Christian properties weren’t the only ones under attack, and that demonstrators had retaliated against other targets across Egypt.

UPDATE (Aug. 14, 2 p.m. EDT): Night is falling in Cairo, as the capital city reels from a day of deadly clashes between security forces and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi. At least 149 protesters died and 1,400 more were wounded in the violence.

The country’s interim president has declared a month-long state of emergency and imposed a 7 p.m. curfew on major cities across the country. Meanwhile, Egypt’s newly appointed Interim Prime Minister Mohamed ElBaradei resigned to protest the crackdown on the encampments.

ElBaradei’s resignation revealed fractures between the interim civilian government and the military forces that have maintained control of the country since removing Morsi from office on July 3 after another set of mass protests. Thousands of Morsi supporters had remained in the streets to demand his return.

The clashes on Wednesday came as Egyptian security forces staged a crackdown on two sprawling encampments of Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi supporters. Police raided the camps with armored vehicles and bulldozers in the early morning hours and fired tear gas to disperse crowds.

Military officials originally proposed blocking supply routes into the camp to force protesters out. But by mid-morning, tear gas flowed and shots rang out in the camps. International news agencies reported gunfire came from the direction of security forces. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the United States “strongly condemns” the violence, and called on the Egyptian government to find a peaceful resolution.

Protesters in the camps lashed out against the raids: Reports indicated pro-Morsi demonstrators attacked and set fire to police stations across Cairo. By early afternoon, clashes erupted between civilians in some surrounding neighborhoods, raising fears of widespread street violence.

Meanwhile, attacks continued on churches in surrounding areas. (See the earlier report below for more details on church-related violence.)

Mouneer Anis—the top primate over all Anglicans in the Middle East—issued a bulletin on Wednesday, and reported St. Saviour’s Anglican Church in Suez was “under heavy attack from those who support former President Morsi. They are throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at the church and have destroyed the car of Rev. Ehab Ayoub.”

The bishop also reported attacks on Coptic churches in Upper Egypt and a Catholic church in Suez, and asked Christians to “pray that the situation will calm down, for wisdom and tact for the police and army, for the safety of all churches and congregations, and that all in Egypt would be safe.”

EARLIER REPORT (Aug. 14, 9 a.m. EDT): Egyptian police staged a crackdown on two sprawling protest camps in Cairo on Wednesday, seeking to end a six-week standoff with pro-Morsi supporters crippling parts of the capital.

Meanwhile, thousands of Morsi supporters set fire to at least three churches in regions outside the capital, stoking fears over rising persecution of Christians across parts of Egypt.

The crackdown in Cairo began Wednesday morning, as police swept into two camps filled with supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted President Mohamed Morsi. The raid came after days of warning the crowds to disperse from two major intersections in the crowded capital.

Security forces in armored vehicles quickly cleared the smaller encampment, but clashes continued at the main site near a mosque on the other end of the city. Reports of deaths and injuries varied wildly.

Government officials estimated 95 people died in the clashes, with another 750 injured. The Muslim Brotherhood claimed security forces killed some 300 protesters, but the Associated Press reported that nothing in its coverage or on local TV networks suggested such a high figure.  At least one journalist also died in the clashes, veteran Sky News cameraman Mick Deane.

The clashes came more than six weeks after millions of demonstrators demanded Morsi’s ouster. Demonstrators said Morsi’s rule had worsened the country’s economy and shifted the nation in a troubling Islamist direction.

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