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Africa

State of emergency declared as Egypt erupts in unrest

© AFP

Video by Olivia SALAZAR WINSPEAR

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-08-14

Egypt declared a month-long state of emergency after at least 56 people died in clashes Wednesday as security forces moved in to dismantle two protest camps in Cairo where ousted president Mohammed Morsi's supporters have been demanding his return.

The Egyptian presidency declared a one-month-long state of emergency and has ordered the armed forces to help enforce security, state TV reported on Wednesday, following clashes that erupted as security forces moved to dismantle protest camps in Cairo where supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi have been calling for his reinstatement.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said through a spokesman that he condemned the violence used by Egyptian security forces "in the strongest terms" and urged all Egyptians to work toward "genuinely inclusive reconciliation".

Egyptian forces, backed by armoured cars and bulldozers, moved in after dawn to clear two Cairo protest camps where demonstrators have been gathered for weeks to call for the return of ousted president Mohammed Morsi, spraying protesters with tear gas as the sound of gunfire rang out, state television and security officials said.

An Egyptian Health Ministry official told AP that 56 people had been killed in clashes across the country.

Gehad el-Haddad, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood – the Islamist group from which Morsi hails – said on Twitter that as many as 2,000 people were killed and more than 10,000 injured in the crackdown.

Sky News said one of its cameraman had been killed in the unrest. The network's correspondent Tom Rayner reported "scenes of utter chaos and huge numbers of dead" from inside Rabaa mosque, adding that the "field hospitals were full of bodies and extreme injuries". 

Egyptian-American Mohamed Soltan said that journalists in the crowd and on the stage had been fired upon. "2 cameramen shot on stage right in front of me, more volunteers risk their lives so the world can watch us get killed," he wrote on Twitter.

An AP television journalist at 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 of Nasr City. He said a bulldozer was removing sand bags and brick walls built by the protesters as a defence line in their camp. Army troops, however, were not taking part in the operation.

Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood urged Egyptians to take to the streets in their thousands to denounce the "massacre".

"This is not an attempt to disperse, but a bloody attempt to crush all voices of opposition to the military coup," Brotherhood spokesman Gehad al-Haddad said on Twitter.

The Rabaa al-Adawiya protest camp, where several Brotherhood leaders are staying, "is calling on Egyptians to take to the streets to stop the massacre", Haddad said.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was "deeply concerned by the escalating violence" and was "disappointed that compromise has not been possible".

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 on the other side of the Egyptian capital – began shortly after 7am. 

Helicopters hovered over the two sites as plumes of smoke rose over the city skyline.

Regional television networks showed images of collapsed tents and burning tyres at both sites, with ambulances on standby at the scene. They also showed protesters being arrested and led away by the troops.

At one point, state television showed footage of some dozen protesters, mostly bearded, cuffed and sitting on a sidewalk under guard outside the Cairo University campus.

A television feed by a pro-Morsi station showed thousands of protesters gathered at the centre of the Nasr City site, with many covering their faces against the tear gas.  Most of the protesters at the other camp fled to the nearby Orman botanical gardens and inside the sprawling university campus.

At least 250 people have died in clashes in Egypt following Morsi's July 3 ouster in a military coup that followed days of mass protests by millions of Egyptians calling for his removal.

"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,'' said a statement by the Muslim Brotherhood.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-08-14

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