Egypt security forces move in to clear Morsy supporters from Cairo protest camps; deaths reported

14 Aug

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Egyptian security forces moved in on two massive camps filled with supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsy, bulldozing tents, lobbing tear gas and arresting protesters Wednesday.

In the chaos of the raid, it was impossible for CNN to verify the claims and counter claims of casualties.

The Muslim Brotherhood said 200 Morsy supporters were killed and more than 8,000 injured.

But Egypt’s deputy head of emergency services put the number at five protesters dead and 26 wounded.

The Interior Ministry said that on the government side, two security officials were killed and nine injured while trying to disperse the protesters.

Less than three hours after the raids began, security forces had cleared out the smaller of the two camps — the Nahda camp, near the Cairo University campus.

The larger camp — near the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in eastern Cairo — proved trickier.

Forces came under heavy fire from protesters, state-run Nile TV said.

The government blocked all roads leading to the camp, and suspended rail service to Cairo.

The Brotherhood said it was to prevent more of its members from streaming into the city.

Hassan Al Qabana, who works at the media center set up at the Rabaa camp, said the location was facing a “full-on assault” and the wounded were streaming in.

Police in riot gear were out in full force, escorting men away. The Interior Ministry said more than 200 were arrested, caught with weapons and ammunition.

Huge black plumes of smoke billowed into the sky, and at least one fire burned near the protesters.

Mothers and fathers whisked away children, gas masks on their faces.

A group of protesters tried unsuccessfully to overturn a police van.

Protests leaders stood on a stage with a microphone. Throngs of supporters raised their hands in a peace sign or waved Egypt’s flag.

The Muslim Brotherhood said police were throwing Molotov cocktails at the clinics inside the camps.

The Interior Ministry said security forces did not use gunfire and instead were attacked by “terrorist elements” inside the camps.

“Egyptian security forces are committed to the utmost self-restraint in dealing with the protesters,” the ministry said.

Cities within a city

For six chaotic weeks, Morsy supporters had massed at the two camps — refusing to budge until Morsy was reinstated. Their camps quickly morphed into cities within a city.

They lived and slept in tents.

Vendors sold everything from bottled water to masks. Children played in inflatable castles and splashed in kiddie pools.

The government have accused the protesters of packing the sites with their children to use them as human shields.

The raid Wednesday was not unexpected.

Since the Muslim holy month of Ramadan ended last week, the protesters had hunkered down and waited for the crackdown that the government had long hinted at.

They fortified their sites with sandbags, tires and stacks of bricks.

A deadly toll

The protests started soon after Egypt’s military toppled Morsy in a coup last month.

Hundreds have been killed and thousands have been injured in recent weeks, either in clashes between opposing protesters or in clashes between protesters and Egyptian security forces.

Last month, Information Minister Durriya Sharaf el-Din said the gatherings were a threat to national security and traffic congestion.

And two weeks ago, Mansour issued orders in the event of a possible “state of emergency,” the EGYnews website reported.

“State of emergency” is a loaded term in Egypt. Former President Hosni Mubarak ruled for 30 years under an emergency decree that barred unauthorized assembly, restricted freedom of speech and allowed police to jail people indefinitely.

Morsy’s fall

Morsy became Egypt’s first democratically elected president in 2012, a year after popular protests forced Mubarak to resign and end his three-decade rule.

But a year into Morsy’s term, many Egyptians wanted him out, too. They said the Western-educated Islamist, aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood movement, was not inclusive and they said he had failed to deliver on the people’s aspirations for freedom and social justice.

Morsy was accused of authoritarianism and trying to force the Brotherhood’s Islamic agenda onto the nation’s laws. He was also criticized by many Egyptians frustrated with rampant crime and a struggling economy that hadn’t shown improvement since Mubarak resigned.

But supporters say Morsy repeatedly offered Cabinet positions to secularists and liberals — only to get repeatedly rejected.

Since taking power from Morsy, Egypt’s military has installed an interim civilian government with Mansour as interim president.

But Egypt’s generals, the ones who oversaw Morsy’s ouster and led the country for a year after Mubarak’s resignation, still wield significant power.

The list of accusations against Morsy include: collaborating with the militant group Hamas to carry out hostile acts, attacking law enforcement buildings, officers and soldiers, storming prisons, vandalizing buildings and deliberately burning a prison.

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