CAIRO – Egypt declared a month-long state of emergency on Wednesday as the army slaughtered nearly 150 supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi, who was democratically elected until a coup overthrew him.
The exceptional measures came as “the security and order of the nation face danger due to deliberate sabotage, and attacks on public and private buildings and the loss of life by extremist groups,” the presidency said.
Interim president Adly Mansour “has tasked the armed forces, in cooperation with the police, to take all necessary measures to maintain security and order and to protect public and private property and the lives of citizens.”
The statement read out on television did not spell out any specific measures that might be taken.
The emergency was imposed as clashes raged around the country after police moved in to disperse two pro-Morsi camps in Cairo.
Earlier in the day, security forces on Wednesday stormed two huge Cairo protest camps occupied for weeks by Morsi’s supporters, leaving nearly 150 people dead in a crackdown that turned into a bloodbath.
As clashes raged in the capital, three churches were attacked in central Egypt, with Christian activists accusing Morsi loyalists of waging “a war of retaliation against Copts in Egypt”.
Hours after the first tear gas canisters rained down on tents of protesters in the sprawling Rabaa al-Adawiya camp in east Cairo, an AFP correspondent counted at least 124 bodies in makeshift morgues.
In a field hospital, its floors slippery with blood, doctors struggled to cope with the casualties, leaving the hopeless cases, even if still alive. The Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi emerged, said that 2,200 people had been killed and over 10,000 injured as authorities confirmed 56 deaths in Wednesday’s violence.
Security officials had spoken of a gradual dispersal of the sit-ins over several days but the dramatic descent on the squares shortly after dawn came as a surprise to many. Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s main seat of learning, which sided with the military in its overthrow of Morsi on July 3, distanced itself from the crackdown.