Egyptian security forces, backed by armoured cars and bulldozers, moved in to clear two sit-in camps early this morning, firing tear gas into the crowds
More than 40 people are feared dead after Egyptian security forces, backed by armoured cars and bulldozers, moved in to clear two sit-in camps of ousted President Mohammed Morsi’s supporters.
The Anti-Coup Alliance, an umbrella of pro-Morsi supporters, said 43 people had been killed and dozens injured in the attack on the larger of the two protest camps in the eastern district of Nasr City.
There was no official word on casualties among the protesters in either camp, but it has been confirmed that at least two members of the security forces died in the crackdown.
Tear gas was fired into the camps and gunfire was heard fired from both sides.
The Interior Ministry, which is in charge of police, warned in a statement that the forces would deal firmly with protesters acting “irresponsibly” and said it would guarantee safe passage to those who want to leave the sites.
An Associated Press television video journalist at the scene of the larger of the two camps said he could hear the screams of women as a cloud of white smoke hung over the site in the eastern Cairo suburb of Nasr City. He said a bulldozer was removing mounds of sand bags and brick walls built by the protesters as a defence line in their camp. Army troops, however, were not taking part in the operation.
The simultaneous actions by the Egyptian forces – at the pro-Morsi encampment in Nasr City and at the site outside the main campus of Cairo University on the other side of the city – began at around 7am local time today.
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 and inside the sprawling campus of Cairo University.
However, security forces remained on the fringes of the other camp in eastern Nasr City. Television footage from there showed thousands of protesters congregating at the heart of the site, with many wearing gas masks or covering their faces to fend off the tear gas.
A security official said 200 protesters had so far been arrested from both sites.
The Anti-Coup Alliance claimed security forces used live ammunition against protesters, but the Interior Ministry said its forces only used tear gas.
It said security forces came under fire from the camp. Two policemen were killed and five were injured by gunfire, it said.
In a statement, the Muslim Brotherhood – the Islamist group from which Mr Morsi hails - said: “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.”
A ministry statement warned forces would deal firmly with protesters who were acting “irresponsibly”, suggesting that it would respond in kind if its men were fired upon.