Africa
5:27 pm
Wed August 14, 2013

Death Toll Mounts In Egypt After Violent Clashes

Originally published on Fri August 16, 2013 8:40 am

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. Egypt is in turmoil today, with ominous implications for the country's future.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNFIRE)

SIEGEL: A bloody crackdown against supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi has killed at least 278 people and wounded at least 2,000. Those are the official numbers that Egypt's ministry of health has put out. The death toll is thought to be higher than that. Egypt's security forces moved just after dawn to clear two main camps which had been occupied since the military coup six weeks ago.

What ensued was what some witnesses are calling a blood bath. Now the military-installed government has declared a month-long state of emergency and a curfew from 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. in 11 provinces, including Cairo.

CORNISH: Egyptian Vice-president Mohammed ElBaradei, the former head of the UN's nuclear watchdog agency, submitted his resignation today over the violence. In a moment, we'll hear from Egypt's ambassador to the United States, but first, to NPR's Leila Fadel in Cairo. Hi there, Leila.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Hi.

CORNISH: So describe, what's the latest right now?

FADEL: Well, right now, the two main sit-ins in Cairo have been forcibly cleared. Witnesses are telling us that police stormed into the field hospital at the main sit-in in eastern Cairo and demanded everyone leave, doctors who were treating the wounded apparently escorted out at gunpoint. It seems that the strategy of the security forces right now is to stop gatherings of any kind anywhere in this country.

Egypt's interior minister, Mohammed Ibrahim, said today they won't tolerate another sit-in in Egypt, no matter what. He said arms would be met with arms, the government blaming Morsi supporters for the violence, saying they also lost 43 policemen today when a police station was attacked. But the majority of the dead, those hundreds that we've mentioned, are protesters in support of Morsi.

CORNISH: And you visited a field hospital earlier today. Tell us about the scene there.

FADEL: We witnessed harrowing scenes. And first, just to get to the hospital, we had to dash through an alleyway where sniper fire was being shot from buildings. And this sniper fire was coming from security forces. And once we were inside the hospital, these were the sounds of the wounded being ushered in.

(SOUNDBITE FROM EGYPTIAN FIELD HOSPITAL)

FADEL: The steps were slick with blood as we went from floor to floor. And every few seconds, people were being carried in with gunshot wounds and some were already dead. One image that sticks in my mind is a body that had been completely charred, apparently burned in one of the tents. A woman, also shot in the head, her body wrapped in a blanket.

Just on one floor of that center, I counted 37 bodies. They were lined up in rows, their hands folded across their chests. And the doctor there told us that the security forces were shooting to kill.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: A lot of patients, either they're coming dead or they have the severe injury and they're dying after coming.

FADEL: And when we were trying to leave, the gunfire intensified. We didn't know at the time that a state of emergency had been declared. We hid behind walls until we knew we had to just run and then we got out before it got even worse. And as I was running, a man just dropped in front of me. He had been shot in the head. It was just unbelievable scenes there.

So many people told me the nation was being ripped apart and we were seeing the evidence around us.

CORNISH: Looking at some of the politics for today, tell us about the significance of Baradei's resignation. Obviously, he's a well-known international figure.

FADEL: Basically, it's a huge blow to this military-installed government. Baradei was the most recognized figure in this government and now he's gone. His resignation could possibly delegitimize this transitional process that's followed the military coup. Baradei was sort of seen as a voice of reason. He was pushing for alternatives to what we saw today, which was really total chaos, urban warfare across the country.

Christians being attacked in provinces of Egypt, churches being burned, gunfights on Cairo's main streets and protesters being gunned down by security forces. We also saw video footage of some of those protesters with guns. I didn't witness that myself. Baradei basically said in a statement that he can't bear responsibility for the bloodshed and the only one who's gained anything from today were people who promote violence and terror.

CORNISH: A short time here, Leila, but what other measures has this military-appointed government taken, especially now that these protest camps have been cleared?

FADEL: They've declared a state of an emergency for a month. They've declared a curfew today beginning at 9:00 p.m. and then for every day forward this month beginning at 7:00 p.m. in 11 provinces across the country. You know, the last time there was a state of emergency, it lasted 30 years under Mubarak, so this could be a really big blow for the future of democracy here.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Leila Fadel in Cairo. Leila, thank you.

FADEL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.