Jim Reilly, Steve Nolan — Daily Mail August 14, 2013
As many as 100 protestors are said to have been killed as an operation to clear two protest camps with thousands of protestors loyal to ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi descended into violent chaos.
Egyptian security forces are said to have opened fire on mostly unarmed protestors in the operation which began shortly after 7am local time.
Although the number of dead is unconfirmed, burned corpses have been seen on the streets which resemble a war zone.
Medics are treating scores of injured people wearing gas masks and swimming goggles to protect themselves from tear gas while they work.
Security forces are said to be armed with machine guns, M16 rifles and AK47s and are reported to have been firing on crowds.
Although the smaller of the camps has been cleared, violence broke out at the larger of the two camps.
The violence is the latest indication that the country could be heading for all out civil war after weeks of clashes between pro-Morsi protestors and security forces following the ousting of the president.
At the biggest camp in northeast Cairo, security forces fired tear gas as police helicopters circled above and army vehicles were stationed nearby.
The state news agency said security forces were implementing a phased plan to disperse the protesters, which is almost certain to deepen political turmoil in Egypt.
According to Sky News, snipers have been seen on rooftops close to the camps and the sound of machine-gun fire has been heard.
Many of the unarmed protestors have come under attack from armed forces said reports.
A correspondent for the channel currently in Cairo said that scores of people are being treated for gunshot wounds at a makeshift clinic set up in a mosque at the main camp site.
He described the ‘extreme horror’ of the situation and said that many of the injured have bullet wounds to the head, neck and upper body and that many are dead.
According to the Telegraph, Hoda Saki, a 28-year-old English teacher whose father is still in the camp, said that she had been fired upon when she tried to re-enter the camp.
She said: ‘He called us to say they are shooting at the tents and using tear gas.
‘There are women and children inside.
‘They can’t count the injuries because there are some many of them.
‘With my own eyes, I saw snipers on the roofs shooting down. When we tried to get back in, they shot at us.’
Smoke has been seen billowing from both camps with images of protestors tents and piles of tyres on fire at the camps.
While initial reports have suggested that at least 43 protestors have been killed in the double operation and security forces have confirmed the deaths of two of their personnel, casualty figures are currently unclear.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s estimate of the number dead continues to rise, with the group claiming that as many as 600 have been killed.
The movement’s spokesman Gehad El-Haddad took to Twitter to make the claim, adding that more than 5,000 people have been injured.
But those estimates are unconfirmed.
Mr El-Haddad described today’s violence as an unprecedented ‘bloody brutal massacre’.
So far, the only official line on the number of deaths is a statement from senior Health Ministry official, Ahmed el-Ansari, who earlier said that four people have been killed and 50 injured at both sites.
Official updates later said that seven have died.
There have also been reports that the violence is beginning to spread outside of Cairo, with reports of further clashes involving Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Minya and Assiut.
A church is said to have been set on fire in Minya, some 250km south west of Cairo.
The simultaneous actions by the Egyptian forces – at the pro-Morsi encampment in Nasr City and at the site outside the main campus of Cairo University in Giza – began at around 7am local time.
Regional television networks have been broadcasting images of collapsed tents and burning tires at both sites, with ambulances on standby.
Footage showed dozens of protesters being arrested and led away by black-clad policemen.
State television showed footage of some dozen protesters, mostly bearded, cuffed and sitting on a sidewalk under guard outside the Cairo University campus.
The smaller of the two camps was cleared of protesters by late morning, with most of them taking refuge in the nearby Orman botanical gardens and inside the sprawling campus of Cairo University.
Security forces remained on the fringes of the other camp in the eastern Nasr City district after it showered the encampment with tear gas.
Television footage from there showed thousands of protesters congregating at the heart of the site, with many wearing gas masks or covering their faces to fend off the tear gas.
A security official, who spoke anonymously, said earlier today that as many as 200 protestors had been arrested.
Officials confirmed that a number of leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood group had been arrested in the move to clear out the protest camps.
None of those arrested have been named.
‘We have arrested a number of Brotherhood leaders but it’s too early to announce their names,’ General Abdel Fattah Othman, a senior official in the Interior Ministry, told the privately-owned CBC TV channel.
The Anti-Coup Alliance, an umbrella of pro-Morsi supporters, said in a statement that there are dozens of dead and injured so far in Wednesday’s attacks.
Eyewitness Ahshur Abid said 15 people were killed as the clearing operation started.
He said he saw their bodies at a field hospital at one of the camps.
While supporters say that security forces used live ammunition, officials denied the claims and said that they only fired tear gas on the camps.
Video footage taken from a camera on board an army helicopter was released by officials this morning who say that it shows protestors firing on security forces first.
Pictures were posted on Twitter of a security forces truck which was full of soldiers that had been pushed off a bridge by protestors in Cairo, killing or injuring those inside.
A ministry statement also warned that forces would deal firmly with protesters acting ‘irresponsibly,’ suggesting that it would respond in kind if its men are fired upon.
It said it would guarantee safe passage to those who want to leave the Nasr City site but would arrest those wanted for questioning by prosecutors.
The security official said train services between the north and south of the country have been suspended in a bid to prevent supporters of the ousted Morsi from travelling to Cairo to reinforce fellow Islamists.
A statement issued today by the Muslim Brotherhood group from which Morsi hails said: ‘The world cannot sit back and watch while innocent men, women and children are being indiscriminately slaughtered. The world must stand up to the military junta’s crime before it is too late.’
An Associated Press television video journalist at the scene of the larger of the two camps said he could hear the screams of women as a cloud of white smoke hung over the site in the eastern Cairo suburb.
He said an army bulldozer was removing mounds of sand bags and brick walls built by the protesters as a defence line.
The Foreign Office said this morning that it is ‘concerned’ by the latest developments in Egypt and urged travellers to stay away from the violence.
An FCO spokesman said: ‘We are deeply concerned by reports from Cairo this morning – and urge for dialogue and a peaceful resolution.
‘As the Foreign Secretary said in his statement on 27 July, now is the time for dialogue, not confrontation.
‘We have updated our travel advice advising people to stay away from demonstrations and large gatherings of people.’
More than 300 people have already died in political violence since the army overthrew Morsi on July 3, including dozens of his supporters killed by security forces in two separate earlier incidents.
Supporters of the ousted Islamist president want him reinstated and are boycotting the military-sponsored political process which includes amending the Islamist-backed constitution adopted last year and holding parliamentary and presidential elections early next year.
Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, had just completed one year in office when he was toppled.
He has been held at an undisclosed location since July 3, but was visited by the European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and a team of African statesmen.
Ashton reported that he was well and had access to television and newspapers.
Several bids by the United States, the EU and Gulf Arab states to reconcile the two sides in Egypt in an inclusive political process have failed, with the Brotherhood insisting that Morsi must first be freed along with several of the group’s leaders who have been detained in connection with incitement of violence.
The trial of the Brotherhood’s leader, Mohammed Badie, and his powerful deputy Khairat el-Shater on charges of conspiring to kill protesters is due to start later this month.
Badie is on the run, but el-Shater is in detention. Four others are standing trial with them on the same charges.