By Jeffrey Fleishman
5:03 AM PDT, August 15, 2013
CAIRO -- The death toll in the violence that has engulfed Egypt climbed to 525 Thursday as the nation awoke to scenes of charred streets, battered cars, funerals and deepening divisions between Islamists and the largely secular military-backed government.
The Health Ministry reported that the dead, mostly supporters of deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, included at least 43 police officers. More than 3,700 people were wounded in clashes that ignited Wednesday when security forces broke up two sit-ins by protesters loyal to Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood.
The Brotherhood claims at least 2,000 people were killed in street battles that swept the country. Many of the deaths occurred when riot police firing tear gas and automatic weapons stormed the 6-week-old Islamist rally outside the Rabaa al Adawiya mosque in Cairo.
The violence stunned world leaders, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded Thursday that the U.N. Security Council move to condemn what he characterized as a massacre by Egyptian soldiers and security forces.
"I am calling on Western countries. You remained silent in Gaza, you remained silent in Syria. ... You are still silent on Egypt. So how come you talk about democracy, freedom, global values and human rights?" he told a news conference.
The Brotherhood has vowed that its followers would continue protesting until Morsi, toppled in a coup last month, is reinstated. The group’s spokesman, Gehad Haddad, posted on his Twitter account: “We will always be nonviolent and peaceful. We remain strong, defiant and resolved. We will push forward until we bring down this military coup.”
The attacks on the protest camps devastated the Brotherhood, relegating it to the fringes of the nation’s politics. That prospect has raised fears that Brotherhood followers and hard-line Salafi Islamists may go underground to plot militant attacks on government and tourism targets, similar to the bombings and assaults that killed hundreds in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Terrorism has been on the rise in the Sinai Peninsula for months. In a foreshadowing of widening civil strife and sectarianism, more than a dozen Christian Coptic churches and monasteries were attacked Wednesday. Islamists have blamed the minority Christian population of siding with the military.
Interim Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi defended the crackdown, saying, "We found that matters had reached a point that no self-respecting state could accept."
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