Riot police swept in with armored vehicles, bulldozers and helicopters Wednesday to clear two sprawling encampments of supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, sparking running street battles elsewhere in Cairo and other Egyptian cities. At least 192 people were killed nationwide, many of them in the assaults on the protest vigils; 43 members of Egypt's police force were also killed on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Egypt's interim vice president,Mohamed ElBaradei, resigned in a letter to Interim President Adly Mansour. ElBaradei said that "the beneficiaries of what happened today are those who call for violence, terrorism and the most extreme groups".
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In his letter ElBaradei said: "As you know, I saw that there were peaceful ways to end this clash in society, there were proposed and acceptable solutions for beginnings that would take us to national consensus," he wrote.
"It has become difficult for me to continue bearing responsibility for decisions that I do not agree with and whose consequences I fear. I cannot bear the responsibility for one drop of blood."
The interim government declared a month long state of emergency, ordering the armed forces to support the police in efforts to restore law and order and protect state facilities. A nighttime curfew for Cairo and 10 provinces also was put into effect.
Speaking after Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei quit, Mohamed Abolghar, head of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, said he had confirmed there would be no further resignations. "Nobody will resign. I confirmed it," Abolghar said.
Both Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi and Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Bahaa El-Din are members of Abolghar's party. Diplomats said that they, like ElBaradei, had been pushing for a political solution to the standoff.
"I am confident that, by the end of the day, Egypt will have a better future. We will have a real democracy. The Muslim Brothers will join the process when they know there are elections," Abolghar said.
In a stern warning to Egypt's leaders, Secretary of State John Kerry said the escalating violence throughout the country Wednesday had dealt a "serious blow" to political reconciliation efforts between the interim government and pro-Morsi groups.
Still, Obama administration officials signaled no change in US policy toward Egypt or clear consequences for the mounting violence. The US has avoided declaring Morsi's ouster a coup, a move that would force the administration to suspend $1.3 billion in annual military aid to the strategically important nation, and officials said they continued to believe that step is not the America's interests.
Kerry, during a surprise appearance at the State Department, condemned the violence and the reinstatement of emergency rule. He urged Egypt's interim leaders to take a step back and calm the situation. "This is a pivotal moment for all Egyptians," Kerry said. "The path toward violence leads only to greater instability, economic disaster and suffering."
Smoke clogged the sky above Cairo and fires smoldered on the streets, which were lined with charred poles and tarps after several tents were burned. The smaller camp was cleared relatively quickly, but clashes continued at the main site near a mosque that has served as the epicenter of the pro-Morsi campaign.
The assault came after days of warnings by the military-backed interim administration that replaced Morsi after he was ousted in a July 3 coup. The two sit-in camps at two major intersections on opposite sides of the Egyptian capital began in late June to show support for Morsi. Protesters, many from Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, have demanded his reinstatement.
The violence drew condemnation from other predominantly Muslim countries, but also from the UN.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon denounced the violence and said he regrets that Egyptian authorities chose to use force to respond to the demonstrations and is "well aware that the vast majority of the Egyptian people want their country to go forward peacefully in an Egyptian-led process towards prosperity and democracy," according to a statement from his office.
Ban urged all Egyptians to focus on reconciliation, the statement said, because he believes that "violence and incitement from any side are not the answers to the challenges Egypt faces."
More than 250 killed on Wednesday (Photo: AP)
Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood has urged its Egyptian peers to continue protests, saying their victory will help the fundamentalist group rise to power elsewhere in the Arab world.
The Brotherhood's political arm, the Islamic Action Front, also warned Egypt's military rulers they have fallen into a "conspiracy" hatched by the US. and Israel to weaken Muslims.
US slams crackdown (Photo: AP)
Turkey's government, which has been consistently critical of the military-backed ouster of Morsi, harshly criticized the crackdown. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office called the violence "a serious blow to the hopes of a return to democracy." It also blamed other unnamed countries for encouraging the government after Morsi's ouster on July 3.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul warned that Egypt could descend into chaos, comparing the clashes to the crackdown in Syria that precipitated a civil war.
"The world cannot sit back and watch while innocent men, women and children are being indiscriminately slaughtered. The world must stand up to the military junta's crime before it is too late," said a statement by the Brotherhood's media office in London emailed to The Associated Press.
Hamas calls event 'terrible massacre' (Photo: AP)
Hamas also condemned Egypt's bloody crackdown Wednesday on supporters of ousted president Morsi as a "terrible massacre."
"Hamas condemns the terrible massacre in Nahda square and at Rabaa al-Adawiyya, and we call for an end to the bloodshed and to excesses against peaceful demonstrators," its spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP.
The deputy head of the Hamas government, Ziad al-Zaza, told Gaza's Al-Rai news agency that "the government expresses its great concern over the events taking place in Egypt."
Sit-ins cleared out
The smaller of the two camps was cleared of protesters by late morning, with most of them taking refuge in the nearby Orman botanical gardens on the campus of Cairo University and the zoo.
An AP reporter at the scene said security forces were chasing protesters in the zoo. At one point, a dozen protesters, mostly men with beards wearing traditional Islamist garb, were seen handcuffed and sitting on a sidewalk under guard outside the university campus. The private ONTV network showed firearms and rounds of ammunition allegedly seized from protesters there.
Security forces later stormed the larger camp in the Cairo district of Nasr City and were closing in on the Rabaah al-Adawiya Mosque that has served as the epicenter of pro-Morsi campaign. Several wanted Brotherhood leaders were believed to be hiding in the mosque.
The pro-Morsi Anti-Coup alliance claimed that security forces used live ammunition, but the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of the police, said its forces only used tear gas and that they came under fire from the camp.
At least 43 police officers killed (Photo: AP)
The Interior Ministry statement also warned that forces would deal firmly with protesters who were acting "irresponsibly," suggesting that it would respond in kind if its men are fired upon. It said it would guarantee safe passage to all who want to leave the Nasr City site but would arrest those wanted for questioning by prosecutors.
Army troops did not take part in the two operations, but provided security at the locations. Police and army helicopters hovered over both sites as smoke rose over the skyline hours after the police launched the simultaneous actions shortly after 7 a.m. (0500 GMT).
The Health Ministry said 149 people were killed and 1,403 injured across Egypt, but it did not immediately provide a breakdown.
Separately, an alliance of pro-Morsi groups says the 17-year-old daughter of senior Muslim Brotherhood Mohammed el-Beltagy was killed. Asmaa Mohammed el-Beltagy was shot to death in the larger of the two vigils stormed by police. Her brother, Ammar, confirmed her death on his Twitter account.
Two journalists were among the dead – Mick Deane, 61, a cameraman for British broadcaster Sky News, and Habiba Ahmed Abd Elaziz, 26, a reporter for the Gulf News, a state-backed newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, the news organizations reported. Both had been reported to be shot.
A security official said 200 protesters were arrested at both sites. Several detained men could be seen walking with their hands up as they were led away by black-clad policemen.
The Muslim Brotherhood's political arm claimed that more than 500 protesters were killed and some 9,000 wounded in the two camps, but those figures could not be confirmed and nothing in the video from AP or local TV networks suggested such a high death toll.
Ten people were also killed in the Egyptian city of Alexandria Wednesday, a senior Health Ministry official said. Fighting broke out in several districts of the Mediterranean city on Egypt's north coast.
In addition, 43 members of Egypt's police force were killed on Wednesday, Mohamed Ibrahim the interior minister said.
At least 250 people have died in previous clashes since the Morsi's ouster.
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