WASHINGTON/CAIRO – After six weeks of posturing and threats, the Egyptian
military followed through on its vow to clear demonstrators from streets,
executing a crackdown on Wednesday that killed some 300 Egyptians and
wounded more than 2,000.
The latest round of bloodshed began when the army
cleared protesters from Cairo’s two largest pro-Morsi encampments with lethal
force, arresting all those who were armed. Top Brotherhood politicians were
arrested as the crackdown unfolded.
Muslim Brotherhood protesters vowed
to disobey the military and continue their resistance in the name of ousted
president Mohamed Morsi – who remains in custody after being forcibly removed
from power on July 3 – leading to widespread clashes with authorities.
a result of the violence, the military announced a nationwide state of
emergency, doing so for the first time since the fall of longtime former
president Hosni Mubarak more than two years ago.
The bloodshed also
prompted Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei, the civilian face of the interim
government, to resign on Wednesday. He spoke to US Secretary of State John Kerry
by phone to inform the US of his decision.
The air was thick with tear
gas as dozens of Egyptians lay together dead, wounded or cowering in the heart
of Cairo. Snipers could be seen on rooftops surrounding the demonstrations,
according to reports.
Escaping the violence in the Brotherhood’s two
Cairo camps, protesters once again marched on the city’s 6th of October
While casualties were concentrated in the capital, at least 10
people were killed in Alexandria and 15 in Ismailia, on the western bank of the
Suez Canal. Health Ministry officials reported that 41 people were killed in the
Authorities also stated that 43 police officers were
killed in clashes on Wednesday.
Morsi supporters attacked Coptic churches
across the country, fueled by belief that the Christian community had allied
itself with plotting military brass. Protests against the violence also broke
out throughout the day in front of Egypt’s embassies in Khartoum, Ankara and
Speaking from the State Department, Kerry said he had called
Egypt’s foreign minister on Wednesday to condemn the military’s
“Today’s events are deplorable,” Kerry said. “It’s a serious
blow to reconciliation.”
A peaceful transition to civilian rule and an
agreement between the army and a deposed and angry Muslim Brotherhood would be
“much, much harder” to achieve after the day’s events, Kerry said, adding that
the military held the “preponderance of power” in the conflict.
believe they know full well what a constructive process would look like,” he
“The state of emergency should end as soon as possible,” Kerry
The government of Turkey called Wednesday’s events in Egypt a
“massacre” and urged the UN Security Council and the Arab League to address the
“What is required in Egypt is a genuine transition to a genuine
democracy,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said.
Ministry called for a “democratic process” in Egypt and warned that the current
violence “strengthens the likelihood of civil war in this great Islamic
In a statement from Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, where
US President Barack Obama is on vacation, White House deputy press secretary
Josh Earnest “strongly” condemned the violence.
“We have repeatedly
called on the Egyptian military and security forces to show restraint,” Earnest
said, adding that the Obama administration planned to hold the interim
government in Cairo “accountable.”
National Security Adviser Susan Rice
briefed Obama on developments, Earnest said.
The US government has not
called July’s toppling of Morsi a military coup. Doing so would require Congress
to freeze US aid to Egypt, and would compromise what little leverage the
president has over that country’s military.
David Schenker, director of
the program on Arab politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy,
said the death toll would likely rise as the army began dispatching emergency
“At the most basic level, the military considers
its fight with the Brotherhood to be existential, and they’re willing to absorb
a lot of censure to endure what they perceive to be a life-and-death struggle,”
Schenker said. “It’s possible we’re seeing the beginning of a deterioration
similar to 1990s Egypt.”
At that time, Egypt experienced a spike in
terrorism when an Islamist group, al- Gama’a al-Islamiyya, fought for the
implementation of Shari’a law by targeting police, government officials,
civilians and tourists.
The Muslim Brotherhood accused the military of
firing on civilians on Wednesday and drew a line in the sand, saying it would
not relent until Morsi was reinstalled as president. The interim government
denied these claims and again promised a smooth transition to civilian
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she was
following the situation with great concern.
“Confrontation and violence
is not the way forward to resolve key political issues.
I deplore the
loss of lives, injuries and destruction in Cairo and other places in Egypt. I
call on the security forces to exercise utmost restraint and on all Egyptian
citizens to avoid further provocations and escalation,” she said.
office of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also put out a statement
calling for restraint.
“While the UN is still gathering precise
information about today’s events, it appears that hundreds of people were killed
or wounded in clashes between security forces and demonstrators,” the statement
Ban also condemned the violence “in the strongest
“While recognizing that political clocks do not run backwards,”
the statement continues, “the secretary-general also believes firmly that
violence and incitement from any side are not the answers to the challenges