Egyptian security forces killed at least 29 people on Wednesday when they moved in to clear a camp of protesters demanding the reinstatement of deposed President Mohamed Mursi, in a dramatic dawn swoop aimed at ending a six-week standoff in Cairo.
Troops opened fire on demonstrators in clashes that brought chaos to areas of the capital and looked certain to further polarize Egypt’s 84 million people between those who backed Mursi and the millions who opposed his brief rule.
In the streets around the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in northeast Cairo, where thousands of Mursi supporters have staged a sit-in, riot police wearing gas masks crouched behind armored vehicles, tear gas hung in the air and burning tires sent plumes of black smoke into the sky.
At a hospital morgue nearby, a Reuters reporter counted 29 bodies, including that of a 12-year-old boy. Most had died of gunshot wounds to the head. A nurse at the same hospital had said she counted 60 bodies, and expected the number to rise.
The unrest spread beyond the capital, with the cities of Minya and Assiut, and Alexandria on the northern coast, also affected. Seventeen people were killed in the province of Fayoum south of Cairo. Five more died in Suez.
Mohamed El-Beltagi, a leader of Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement that led the protests, warned of wider conflict and singled out the head of the armed forces who deposed Mursi on July 3 following mass protests that called for his resignation.
“I swear by God that if you stay in your homes, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will embroil this country so that it becomes Syria. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will push this nation to a civil war so that he escapes the gallows.”