Egyptian security forces move in on protests; deaths reported

A supporter of Egypt's ousted president Mohammed Morsi sprays water on protesters outside Rabaa al Adawiya mosque in Cairo.
A supporter of Egypt’s ousted president Mohammed Morsi sprays water on protesters outside Rabaa al Adawiya mosque in Cairo.
(Khalil Hamra / Associated Press)
<i>This post has been updated. See the note below for details.</i>

CAIRO -- Egyptian security forces firing tear gas moved early Wednesday to break up anti-government protests as supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi fired slingshots and hurled rocks at advancing police while military helicopters skimmed the Cairo skyline.

State TV carried images of black smoke and chaos as security forces, clad in riot gear, pushed toward a sit-in at Cairo University. At a second operation across the Nile, police fired tear gas and bulldozers rolled toward barricades to disperse thousands of pro-Morsi loyalists outside the Rabaa al Adawiya mosque.

The makeshift field hospital at the mosque was treating dozens of wounded. There were conflicting reports on casualties, ranging from five to 30 deaths. That toll was expected to climb given the size of the sit-ins and the panic of protesters, who were both escaping and battling security forces with stones and guns.


The military-backed government had threatened for weeks to storm the camps but had several times delayed operations over fears of widespread bloodshed, including deaths of women and children. But hard-liners in the government had pressed the military and the Interior Ministry to clear the sit-ins, which had been organized by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement.

Morsi was deposed in a coup on July 3, and supporters had vowed not to leave sit-ins until he was reinstated. Diplomatic efforts failed to reach a compromise, and the Brotherhood’s leaders, many of whom have been jailed in recent weeks, refused to recognize the new government.

[Updated, 11:39 p.m. PDT Aug. 13: Brotherhood spokesman Gehad Haddad posted this tweet:

U will not bend our will or break our resolve w/ ur audacity 2 kill. We will always stand high in face of ANY tyranny even if let down by sm&amp;mdash; Gehad El-Haddad (@gelhaddad) August 14, 2013


Authorities reported early Wednesday that security forces found caches of weapons at the sit-ins. The Interior Ministry’s Facebook page reported that as security forces moved to “lay siege” on the protests they “fired warning shots.”

The statement added that “some armed protesters at both sit-ins began firing shots heavily in the direction of the forces, which led to the death of one officer and a conscript and the injury of four officers and five central security recruits.”


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Special correspondent Ingy Hassieb contributed to this report.