More than 500 people dead as protests continue in Egypt

Posted at 7:06 AM, Aug 15, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-15 12:07:59-04

CAIRO (CNN) — The Muslim Brotherhood said Thursday nothing will stop its “glorious revolution” in Egypt — not even the death of more than 400 people killed in Egypt’s bloodiest day in recent history.

“We will continue our sit-ins and demonstrations all over the country until democracy and the legitimate rule are restored in Egypt,” said Essam Elerian, a senior member of the Islamic group.

Egypt’s short-lived experiment with democracy took a bloody turn Wednesday, culminating in hundreds of deaths and a return to the repressive state of emergency that had gripped the country for 30 years.

Exactly what started the bloodshed depends on who you ask.

Protesters in Cairo who support ousted President Mohamed Morsy said security forces waged a “full-on assault” on what they said had been peaceful demonstrations calling for Morsy’s restatement.

Egypt’s interim government said it was trying to disperse protesters peacefully, but had to retaliate when some protesters turned violent.

CNN journalists on the ground said many of the protesters injured or killed were unarmed.

By the end of the day, at least 421 people were killed and more than 3,500 injured in clashes in the country Wednesday, the health ministry said.

Those killed include 43 police officers, the interior ministry said.

It was the bloodiest day since the 2011 revolution to oust Morsy’s predecessor, Hosni Mubarak.

A tense calm

The violence spilled over into Thursday, with state-run TV reporting Morsy supporters attacking police stations, hospitals and government buildings in areas outside Cairo.

But Cairo streets were relatively calm Thursday morning — the likely effect of the Egypt’s new state of emergency.

The military-backed interim government declared a month-long state of emergency, which bars people from gathering without prior permission and lets police jail them indefinitely.

It is the kind of stifling police state that the nation lived through under Mubarak — before he was thrown out of office in a popular uprising in 2011.

The raid

After weeks of simmering tension, clashes and gunfire broke out Wednesday when security forces raided camps for Morsy supporters in Cairo, leaving pools of blood and bodies strewn all over the streets.

Security forces rushed in, bulldozing tents and escorting away hundreds. Some mothers and fathers managed to whisk away their children, gas masks on their faces.

The dead included cameraman Mick Deane, who’d worked for UK-based news channel Sky News for 15 years and for CNN before that. Habiba Abdel Aziz of Gulf News, who was in Egypt on her own time having celebrated the Eid holiday, also died.

And Reuters photojournalist Asmaa Waguih was shot and wounded, and was undergoing treatment in a hospital.

Both camps, Nahda, near Cairo University and the larger one near the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque — were cleared.

The fighting wasn’t limited to the capital.

Morsy backers reportedly besieged churches in Sohag, setting fire to Saint George’s Church, a tour bus and a police car, state media reported.

They vow to remain defiant until Morsy is reinstated.

Morsy’s rise, fall

The revolution that led to the ouster of Mubarak, who’d kept a firm grip on power for 30 years, was followed by Egypt’s first democratic elections.

Morsy — a leader of the Islamist group the Muslim Brotherhood — won the presidency in that 2012 vote, but was forced out by the military last month.

Rather than uniting Egypt after Mubarak’s fall, divisions intensified during his time as president.

Critics accused him of being authoritarian, trying to force the Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamic agenda and failing to deliver freedom and justice.

Morsy’s backers say the deposed president wasn’t given a fair chance, and his supporters have been unfairly targeted for expressing their opinion.

Though he has not appeared in public since he was taken into custody, his supporters have amassed on the streets nationwide to slam military leaders and demand his reinstatement.

For weeks, the two makeshift Cairo protest camps had become cities unto themselves. Supporters slept in tents, and vendors hawked everything, including haircuts and masks. Children played in inflatable castles and splashed in kiddie pools.

More setback

In light of the ongoing violence, the United States is considering canceling next month’s planned biennial military training exercise with Egyptian forces, an official in President Barack Obama’s administration said.

The interim government quickly put together after Morsy’s ouster also suffered a major setback.

Mohammed ElBaradei — a secular leader who was one of Morsy’s biggest critics before joining the government that replaced him — submitted his resignation Wednesday as vice president saying he didn’t agree with decisions being carried out by the ruling government and “cannot be responsible for a single (drop of) blood.”

CNN’s Reza Sayah reported from Cairo; Holly Yan and Saad Abedine reported from Atlanta. CNN’s Ian Lee and Frederik Pleitgen also contributed to this report.

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