Egypt: 638 killed in deadliest crackdown on Morsi supporters

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Cairo, Aug 16: Egypt's defiant Muslim Brotherhood on Friday stormed and torched local government offices as they began a march from the Al-Iman mosque here, a day after over 638 people were killed in the deadliest crackdown by security forces on supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.

The health ministry spokesman said death toll from nationwide violence in Egypt has climbed to 638, making it the bloodiest day since the Arab Spring in 2011 toppled longtime President Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising. In Cairo, the march set out from the Al-Iman mosque, where dozens of corpses of protesters clad in white shrouds were lined up before grieving relatives.

MORSI

Hundreds of Morsi supporters attacked the local government offices in Giza and set them ablaze. Television footage showed the headquarters in flames as men tried to douse the fire with hoses. Assailants used Molotov bombs to burn down the building, Al Arabiya reported.

There were also reports of clashes in Ma'adi, a neighbourhood in southern Cairo, between local residents and Morsi supporters, with witnesses saying both sides exchanged gunfire. Muslim Brotherhood and anti-Morsi supporters Tamarod urged nationwide rival rallies tomorrow, setting stage for fresh confrontation.

"To every free Egyptian man and woman: Come out against the bloody military coup," Muslim Brotherhood and allies grouped in the National Alliance for Legitimacy said in a statement, predicting millions would take to the streets. Tamarod (Rebellion) movement, which launched the June 30 protest that led to the ouster of Morsi, urged all Egyptians to take to the streets tomorrow to defend the country from "terrorism".

"During these difficult times, we must all stand together... to defend the future of our children from terrorism and the dark forces which want to drag us back centuries," the group said. Tamarod called on "the great people of Egypt to form popular committees on all streets, outside homes and churches around the country, carrying Egyptian flags to reject domestic terrorism and foreign interference," the group said.

The military issued a stern warning against violence and interim President Adly Mansour said he would protect the country against those seeking "chaos" in his first address to the nation. The military statement said that "whoever resorts to violence and deviates from peacefulness in Friday's rallies will put his life in danger".

After the attack on Giza governorates, the interior ministry has instructed "all forces to use live ammunition to counter any attacks on government buildings or forces."

In a separate statement, the cabinet accused Morsi's In a separate statement, the cabinet accused Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood of committing acts of "terrorism and vandalism".

Earlier, the Muslim Brotherhood vowed to bring down the military-backed government as it called for a massive anti-regime rally against the crackdown that, it claimed, left 2,000 people dead. "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 yesterday 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.

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 yesterday, 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."

PTI

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