Egypt protests: Bloodshed as Pro-Morsi camps cleared

The BBC's Hugh Sykes says a great cloud of black smoke is hanging over the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque area

Egyptian security forces have stormed two protest camps occupied by supporters of deposed president Mohammed Morsi in Cairo, with reports of many killed.

Witnesses said they saw at least 40 bodies, but the Muslim Brotherhood says hundreds died.

Armoured bulldozers moved deep into the main camp outside the eastern Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque.

Officials say the other protest camp, at Nahda Square, has also been cleared.

Graphic accounts of bloodshed emerged from the protest camps as reporters described wounded protesters being treated next to the dead in makeshift field hospitals.

The 17-year-old daughter of leading Muslim Brotherhood figure Mohamed el-Beltagy was among the dead. Asmaa el-Beltagy was shot in the back and chest, her brother said.

A cameraman working for Sky News, Mick Deane, has also been killed in the violence.

There were reports of unrest elsewhere in Egypt.

  • At least five people have been killed in the province of Suez, according to the health ministry. Witnesses say Morsi supporters attempted to storm government buildings there
  • Clashes have also been reported in the northern provinces of Alexandria and Beheira, and the central provinces of Assiut and Menya
  • Hundreds are said to have gathered outside the governor's office in Aswan in the south
  • Morsi supporters are reported to have blocked roads in Alexandria
  • State news agency Mena says three churches were attacked in central Egypt, one in the city of Sohag with a large number of Coptic Christian residents

The interior ministry said a mopping-up operation in the streets surrounding Nahda Square was under way. Pro-Morsi activists were chased into the nearby zoo and Cairo University, Nile TV said.

At the scene

Shortly before seven in the morning, from a street corner near the Rabaa mosque encampment, I watched the raid begin.

An armoured military bulldozer drove down towards the barricades on the edges of the encampment. The bulldozer pushed its way through rows of bricks and sandbags. Pro-Morsi protesters responded by throwing stones and burning tyres.

At the same time, riot police in armoured personnel carriers advanced through nearby streets. For more than two hours I heard the crack of live ammunition. The sharp bangs were accompanied by the deeper thud of tear gas explosions.

For a while, it was hard to breathe without a gas mask. Some local residents held handkerchiefs to their faces - and watched the police deployment from their balconies.

It is still unclear how many casualties were caught up in the two Cairo operations. Figures differ widely and have been impossible to verify independently.

Western journalists said they saw at least 40 bodies in a makeshift morgue at the protest site at the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque.

Ikhwanonline, the website of the Muslim Brotherhood, which supports the protests, says more than 800 were killed.

The health ministry has issued an official death toll of 56.

The interior ministry denied any deaths were caused by its forces firing live ammunition.

"Security forces used only tear gas canisters to disperse the protesters though it was heavily fired at by armed elements from inside the two protest camps, causing the death of an officer and a conscript and the injury of four policemen and two conscripts," the ministry said in a statement.

The government has meanwhile congratulated the security forces on their operation to clear the camps.

In a televised statement, a government spokesman praised their "self-restraint" and spoke of the "smaller number" of injuries among protesters.

The government would decisively confront attempts to attack state buildings and police stations, he said.

An Egyptian woman tries to stop a military bulldozer, 14 August A woman tries to stop a bulldozer coming to disperse protesters near the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque
Security forces break up sit-in at Nahda Square The Egyptian government says the Nahda Square sit-in has also been cleared
A protester comforts a wounded man after Egyptian security forces began to clear a sit-in by supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi in the eastern Nasr City district of Cairo, Egypt, Aug 14, 2013 Reports of casualty figures have varied widely
An injured man is carried after security forces break up sit-in at Nahda Square Correspondents have reported hearing live rounds of gunfire
Egyptian security forces detain protesters as they clear a sit-in by supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi in the eastern Nasr City district of Cairo, Egypt, Aug 14, 2013 Security forces detained some protesters as they cleared the camps
Egyptian security forces throw tear gas towards supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi at a sit-in in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013. Armoured vehicles and bulldozers moved in on Wednesday morning
Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi chant slogans as they demonstrate in Egypt's northern coastal city of Alexandria There have been protests against the crackdown in other areas of Egypt including Alexandria in the north

Supporters of Mr Morsi have been occupying Nahda Square and the Rabaa al-Adawiya site since he was ousted on 3 July. They want him reinstated.

Large plumes of smoke rose over parts of the city as the operation to clear the camps began, with tear gas canisters fired and helicopters hovering above.

Crisis timeline

Muslim Brotherhood supporters shout slogans as they wave portraits of Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi
  • 3 July - President Mohammed Morsi deposed by military after mass protests
  • 4 July - Pro-Morsi protesters gather at the Rabaa al-Adawiya and Nahda sites in Cairo
  • 8 July - At least 51 people die in clashes between pro-Morsi protesters and security forces near the Presidential Guard barracks
  • 27 July - More than 70 people killed in clashes with security forces at Rabaa al-Adawiya protest camp
  • 11 August - security forces threaten to clear sit-ins the following day, but the operation is postponed
  • 14 August - Shortly before 07:00 local time: security forces move in to clear camps
  • 14 August - Around 09:00 local time: Officials say Nahda site has been cleared

Muslim Brotherhood TV called for people to send cars to the sit-ins to take casualties to hospital.

Several Muslim Brotherhood figures have been arrested, security sources said.

The protesters had been expecting the clearance operation, says BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen.

It is a heavy-handed operation and is a consequence of the current "winner takes all" climate, he adds, with both sides sticking to their positions and pushing as hard as they can.

Call for restraint

There has been strong international reaction to the storming of the camps.

The European Union called the reports of deaths and injuries "extremely worrying".

A statement issued on behalf of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said: "We reiterate that violence won't lead to any solution and we urge the Egyptian authorities to proceed with utmost restraint."

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the result of the camp clearances as a massacre, accused other countries of paving the way for the violence by staying silent, and called for the UN and the Arab League to act immediately.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague also condemned the use of force.

More than 250 people have been killed in clashes with the security forces in the six weeks since Mr Morsi's overthrow.

Speaking to the BBC on Monday, Egypt's Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said the sit-ins could not continue "endlessly".

He said the authorities had been trying to seek an agreement through dialogue.

"If the police force take their procedures, they will do that in accordance with the law by court order and in accordance to the basic norms on which these things are done."

Map of Rabaa camp
Map of Nahda square camp

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