CAIRO — Egyptian security forces killed at least 30 people today when they moved in to clear a camp of Cairo protesters demanding the reinstatement of deposed President Mohamed Mursi, his Muslim Brotherhood movement said.
There was no official confirmation of the death toll at Rabaa al-Adawiya, in northeast Cairo, where thousands of Mursi supporters have staged a six-week sit-in that caused the army acute embarrassment since it ousted the elected leader.
A second camp near Cairo University was swiftly cleared in the early morning.
The operation, which suggested that the powerful military had lost patience with persistent protests that were crippling parts of the capital and slowing the political process, began just after dawn with helicopters hovering over the camps.
Gunfire rang out as protesters, among them women and children, fled Rabaa, and clouds of black smoke rose into the air. Armoured vehicles moved in beside bulldozers which began clearing tents. One witness saw 15 bodies at a field hospital.
The Health Ministry said 13 people were killed near Rabaa during the crackdown, including five police and eight civilians. The official death toll could well rise.
The government issued a statement saying security forces had showed the “utmost degree of self-restraint”, reflected in low casualties compared to the number of people “and the volume of weapons and violence directed against the security forces”.
A Reuters witness saw soldiers fire at protesters as they tried to enter the besieged Rabaa camp in solidarity with other Mursi supporters. At least 20 were shot in the legs. Television pictures showed security forces shooting from nearby rooftops.
“Tear gas (canisters) were falling from the sky like rain. There are no ambulances inside. They closed every entrance,” said protester Khaled Ahmed, 20, a university student wearing a hard hat with tears streaming down his face.
“There are women and children in there. God help them. This is a siege, a military attack on a civilian protest camp.” (Reuters)