Police storm protest camps; more than 500 dead across Egypt
ASSOCIATED PRESS August 14, 2013 7:10AM
Here are some key events from more than two years of turmoil and transition in Egypt:
Jan. 25-Feb. 11, 2011 — Egyptians stage nationwide demonstrations against nearly 30 years of President Hosni Mubarak’s rule.
Feb. 11 — Mubarak steps down and military takes over. The military dissolves parliament and suspends the constitution, meeting two key demands of protesters.
Nov. 28, 2011-Feb 15, 2012 — Egypt holds multistage, weekslong parliamentary elections. In the lawmaking lower house, the Muslim Brotherhood wins nearly half the seats, and ultraconservative Salafis take another quarter. Islamists take nearly 90 percent of the seats.
May 23-24, 2012 — The first round of voting in presidential elections has a field of 13 candidates. The Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister under Mubarak, emerge as the top two finishers, to face each other in a runoff.
June 14 — The Supreme Constitutional Court orders the dissolving of the lower house of parliament.
June 16-17 — Egyptians vote in the presidential runoff between Morsi and Shafiq. Morsi wins with 51.7 percent of the vote.
June 30 — Morsi takes his oath of office.
Nov. 19 — Members of liberal parties and representatives of Egypt’s churches withdraw from the 100-member assembly writing the constitution, protesting attempts by Islamists to impose their will.
Nov. 22 — Morsi unilaterally decrees greater powers for himself, giving his decisions immunity from judicial review and barring the courts from dissolving the constituent assembly and the upper house of parliament. The move sparks days of protests.
Nov. 30 — Islamists in the constituent assembly rush to complete the draft of the constitution. Morsi sets a Dec. 15 date for a referendum.
Dec. 4 — More than 100,000 protesters march on the presidential palace, demanding the cancellation of the referendum and the writing of a new constitution. The next day, Islamists attack an anti-Morsi sit-in, sparking street battles that leave at least 10 dead.
Dec. 15, Dec. 22 — In the two-round referendum, Egyptians approve the constitution, with 63.8 percent voting in favor. Turnout is low.
Jan. 25, 2013 — Hundreds of thousands hold protests against Morsi on the 2-year anniversary of the start of the revolt against Mubarak.
Feb.-March 2013 — Protests rage in Port Said and other cities for weeks, with dozens more dying in clashes.
April 7 — A Muslim mob attacks the main cathedral of the Coptic Orthodox Church as Christians hold a funeral and protest there over four Christians killed in sectarian violence the day before. Pope Tawadros II publicly blames Morsi for failing to protect the building.
June 23 — A mob beats to death four Egyptian Shiites in a village on the outskirts of Cairo.
June 30 — Millions of Egyptians demonstrate on Morsi’s first anniversary in office, calling on him to step down. Eight people are killed in clashes outside the Muslim Brotherhood’s Cairo headquarters.
July 1 — Huge demonstrations continue, and Egypt’s powerful military gives the president and the opposition 48 hours to resolve their disputes, or it will impose its own solution.
July 2 — Military officials disclose main details of the army’s plan if no agreement is reached: replacing Morsi with an interim administration, canceling the Islamist-based constitution and calling elections in a year. Morsi delivers a late-night speech in which he pledges to defend his legitimacy and vows not to step down.
July 3 — Egypt’s military chief announces that Morsi has been deposed, to be replaced by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court until new presidential elections. No time frame is given. Muslim Brotherhood leaders are arrested. Tens of thousands of Morsi supporters remain camped out in two mass sit-ins in Cairo’s streets.
July 4 — Supreme Constitutional Court Chief Justice Adly Mansour is sworn in as Egypt’s interim president.
July 5 — Mansour dissolves the Islamist-dominated upper house of parliament as Morsi’s supporters stage mass protests demanding his return. Clashes between pro- and anti-Morsi groups in Cairo and Alexandria, and violence elsewhere leave at least 36 dead. A Brotherhood strongman, deputy head Khairat el-Shater, is arrested.
July 8 — Egyptian soldiers open fire on pro-Morsi demonstrators in front of a military base in Cairo, killing more than 50. Each side blames the other for starting the clash near the larger of the two sit-ins, near east Cairo’s Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque. Mansour puts forward a time line for amending the constitution and electing a new president and parliament by mid-February. The Brotherhood refuses to participate in the process.
July 9 — Mansour appoints economist Hazem el-Beblawi as prime minister and opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei as vice president. A military announcement backs up the appointments.
July 26 — Millions pour into the streets of Egypt after a call by the country’s military chief for protesters to give him a mandate to stop “potential terrorism” by supporters of Morsi. Five people are killed in clashes. Prosecutors announce Morsi is under investigation for a host of allegations including murder and conspiracy with the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
July 27 —Security forces and armed men in civilian clothes clash with Morsi supporters outside the larger of the two major sit-ins in Cairo, killing at least 80 people.
July 30 — The EU’s top diplomat Catherine Ashton holds a two-hour meeting with detained Morsi at an undisclosed location. She is one of a number of international envoys, including U.S. Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, to visit Egypt to attempt to resolve the crisis.
Aug 7 —Egypt’s presidency says that diplomatic efforts to peacefully resolve the standoff between the country’s military-backed interim leadership and the Muslim Brotherhood have failed.
Aug 11 — Egyptian security forces announce that they will besiege the two sit-ins within 24 hours to bar people from entering.
Aug 12 — Authorities postpone plans to take action against the camps, saying they want to avoid bloodshed after Morsi supporters reinforce the sit-ins with thousands more protesters.
Aug 14 — Security forces backed by armored vehicles and bulldozers move in to break up the encampments. Morsi supporters engage in running street battles with the police elsewhere in Cairo and other Egyptian cities. At least 149 people are killed. Islamist anger over the crackdown spreads, with police stations, government buildings and Coptic Christian churches attacked or set ablaze. The presidency declares a monthlong state of emergency across the nation.
Updated: August 15, 2013 7:21AM
CAIRO — Egyptian authorities on Thursday significantly raised the death toll from clashes the previous day between police and supporters of the ousted Islamist president, saying more than 500 people died and laying bare the extent of the violence that swept much of the country and prompted the government to declare a nationwide state of emergency and a nighttime curfew.
The death toll, which stood at 525, according to the latest Health Ministry figures, makes Wednesday by far the deadliest day since the 2011 popular uprising that toppled longtime ruler and autocrat Hosni Mubarak — a grim milestone that does not bode well for the future of a nation roiled in turmoil and divisions for the past 2 ½ years.
Health Ministry spokesman Khaled el-Khateeb put the number of the injured on Wednesday at 3,717.
Near the site of one of the smashed encampments of ousted President Mohammed Morsi’s supporters in the eastern Nasr City suburb, an Associated Press reporter on Thursday saw dozens of blood soaked bodies stored inside a mosque. The bodies were wrapped in sheets and still unclaimed by families.
Relatives at the scene were uncovering the faces in an attempt to identify their loved ones. Many complained that authorities were preventing them from obtaining permits to bury them.
El-Khateeb said 202 of the 525 were killed in the Nasr City protest camp, but it was not immediately clear whether the bodies at the mosque were included in that figure.
Wednesday’s violence started with riot police raiding and clearing out the two camps, sparking clashes there and elsewhere in the Egyptian capital and other cities.
Cairo, a city of some 18 million people, was uncharacteristically quiet Thursday, with only a fraction of its usually hectic traffic and many stores and government offices shuttered. Many people hunkered down at home for fear of more violence. Banks and the stock market were closed.
The latest events in Egypt drew widespread condemnation from the Muslim world and the West, including the United States, Egypt’s main foreign backer for over 30 years.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei resigned later Wednesday as Egypt’s interim vice president in protest — a blow to the new leadership’s credibility with the pro-reform movement.
Interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi said in a televised address to the nation that it was a “difficult day” and that he regretted the bloodshed but offered no apologies for moving against Morsi’s supporters, saying they were given ample warnings to leave and he had tried foreign mediation efforts.
The leaders of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood called it a “massacre.” Several prominent Brotherhood figures were detained as police swept through the two sit-in sites, scores of other Islamists were taken into custody, and the future of the once-banned movement was uncertain.
Backed by helicopters, police fired tear gas and used armored bulldozers to plow into the barricades at the two protest camps on opposite ends of Cairo. Morsi’s supporters had been camped out since before he was ousted by a July 3 coup that followed days of mass protests by millions of Egyptians demanding that he step down.
The smaller camp — near Cairo University in Giza — was cleared of protesters relatively quickly, but it took about 12 hours for police to take control of the main sit-in site near the Rabaah al-Adawiya Mosque in Nasr City that has served as the epicenter of the pro-Morsi campaign and had drawn chanting throngs of men, women and children only days earlier.
After the police moved on the camps, street battles broke out in Cairo and other cities across Egypt. Government buildings and police stations were attacked, roads were blocked, and Christian churches were torched, Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim said.
At one point, protesters trapped a police Humvee on an overpass near the Nasr City camp and pushed it off, according to images posted on social networking sites that showed an injured policeman on the ground below, near a pool of blood and the overturned vehicle.
Three journalists were among the dead: Mick Deane, 61, a cameraman for British broadcaster Sky News; Habiba Ahmed Abd Elaziz, 26, a reporter for the Gulf News, a state-backed newspaper in the United Arab Emirates; and Ahmed Abdel Gawad, who wrote for Egypt’s state-run newspaper Al Akhbar. Deane and Elaziz were shot to death, their employers said, while the Egyptian Press Syndicate, a journalists’ union, said it had no information on how Gawad was killed.
The turmoil was the latest chapter in a bitter standoff between Morsi’s supporters and the interim leadership that took over the Arab world’s most populous country. The military ousted Morsi after millions of Egyptians massed in the streets at the end of June to call for him to step down, accusing him of giving the Brotherhood undue influence and failing to implement vital reforms or bolster the ailing economy.
Morsi has been held at an undisclosed location since July 3. Other Brotherhood leaders have been charged with inciting violence or conspiring in the killing of protesters.
A security official said 200 protesters were arrested at both camps. Several men could be seen walking with their hands up as they were led away by black-clad police.
The Brotherhood has spent most of the 85 years since its creation as an outlawed group or enduring crackdowns by successive governments. The latest developments could provide authorities with the grounds to once again declare it an illegal group and consign it to the political wilderness.
In his televised address, el-Beblawi said the government could not indefinitely tolerate a challenge to authority that the 6-week-old protests represented.
“We want to see a civilian state in Egypt, not a military state and not a religious state,” he said.
But the resignation of ElBaradei, the former head of the U.N. nuclear agency and a figure widely respected by Western governments, was the first crack to emerge in the government as a result of the violence.
ElBaradei had made it clear in recent weeks that he was against the use of force to end the protests. At least 250 people have died in previous clashes since the coup that ousted Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president.
On Wednesday, his letter of resignation to interim President Adly Mansour carried an ominous message to a nation already torn by more than two years of turmoil.
“It has become difficult for me to continue to take responsibility for decisions I disapprove of, and I fear their consequences,” he said in the letter that was emailed to The Associated Press. “I cannot take responsibility before God, my conscience and country for a single drop of blood, especially because I know it was possible to spare it.
The National Salvation front, the main opposition grouping that he headed during Morsi’s year in office, said it regretted his departure and complained that it was not consulted beforehand. Tamarod, the youth group behind the mass anti-Morsi protests that preceded the coup, said ElBaradei was dodging his responsibility at a time when his services were needed.
Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb, the powerful head of Al-Azhar mosque, Sunni Islam’s main seat of learning, also sought to distance himself from the violence. He said in a statement he had no prior knowledge of the action.