CAIRO — Riot police backed by armored vehicles, bulldozers and helicopters yesterday swept away two encampments of supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, setting off running street battles in Cairo and other Egyptian cities. At least 278 people were killed nationwide, many of them in the crackdown on the protest sites.
Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and pro-reform leader in the interim government, resigned in protest over the assaults, as the military-backed leadership imposed a monthlong state of emergency and nighttime curfew.
Clashes broke out elsewhere in the capital and other provinces as Islamist anger spread over the dispersal of the 6-week-old sit-ins by Morsi’s Islamist supporters that divided Egypt.
It was the highest single-day death toll since the 18-day uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
The Health Ministry said 235 civilians were killed and more than 2,000 injured, while Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim said 43 policemen died in the assault. He said Morsi supporters attacked 21 police stations and seven Coptic Christian churches across the nation, and assaulted the Finance Ministry in Cairo, occupying its ground floor.
The violence drew condemnation from other predominantly Muslim countries, but also from the West, with Secretary of State John Kerry saying it had dealt a “serious blow” to Egypt’s political reconciliation efforts.
The assault to take control of the two sit-in sites came after days of warnings by the interim administration that replaced Morsi after he was ousted in a July 3 coup. The camps on opposite sides of the capital began in late June to show support for Morsi. Protesters — many from Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood — have demanded his reinstatement.
The smaller camp was cleared relatively quickly, but it took hours for police to take control of the main sit-in site, which is near the Rabbah al-Adawiya Mosque that has served as the epicenter of the pro-Morsi campaign.