Cairo is silent following a day of violent clashes that erupted as Egyptian security forces cleared a pair of long-term protest sites. At least 278 people are reported dead and more than 2,000 are injured. Authorities have declared a one-month state of emergency and are imposing a nightly curfew in Cairo and 13 other provinces. Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei, a prominent liberal voice in the government, stepped down in opposition to the authorities’ violent tactics.
Weeks of street-level standoffs and multiple ultimatums ended early Wednesday morning when Egyptian security forces moved into a pair of long-term protest sites, held by the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of ex-president Mohamed Morsi. In a dispatch for TIME, Ashraf Khalil called Nahda Square near Cairo University “a smoking ruin of burning tires and smoldering tents.” Across the city, at the Rabaa Adaweya mosque in the Nasr City area, Khalil writes, “a much more prolonged and potentially bloody battle is unfolding.”
5:10 p.m.: Here’s a multimedia collection from around the internet, featuring some of the most startling images coming out of Egypt today.
An army personnel carrier that was reportedly pushed off a bridge in downtown Cairo falls to the ground near pro-Morsi protesters. Find more photos of the falling APC here.
كنيسة مارجرجس قبل الحرق .. و بعده pic.twitter.com/xfWeR2Rt5O
— SallY Yousri (@SallyYousri) August 14, 2013
A before-and-after comparison of St. George’s Church in Assiut following an attack by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. Look through this photo gallery for more images of the aftermath.
4:30 p.m.: Two U.S. journalists in Cairo are reporting on their harrowing day of work dodging bullets and abuse from government forces. Abigail Hauslohner, the Cairo Bureau Chief for the Washington Post, writes that a police officer threatened to shoot her in the leg.
“The violent attack by Egyptian military and police on opposition forces’ main encampment was stunning in its ferocity, an assault that transformed nearby streets into a war zone,” she writes.
Mayy El Sheikh, a Cairo correspondent for the New York Times, took to Twitter to recount her experience and criticize the minister of interior for failing to protect journalists:
4:20 p.m.: The full transcript of Kerry’s remarks earlier today are published here.
4:09 p.m.: Western nations spent the past week warning the Egyptian government not to use force against the protesters. Among those bringing the pressure: U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who made nearly daily calls to army commander General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Reuters reports.
3:42: CNN posted video of correspondent Arwa Damon ducking from gunfire as she covers clashes.
Egypt’s interior minister accused protesters in comments to reporters of attacking authorities trying to disperse the sit-ins.
The minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, said 43 members of the police forces had been killed the during dispersal operations, including 18 officers. 21 police stations and 7 churches were also attacked by Brotherhood members, according to the minister.
Ibrahim said police seized 10 machine guns, 29 shotguns, 6 grenades and over 9,600 rounds of ammunition from protest sites, along with molotov cocktails, knives, “and other instruments of torture,” according to Cairo-based journalist Evan Hill.
In his remarks, Ibrahim defended the legitimacy of Egypt’s interim government and the necessity of the military’s crackdown on protesters.
“We were given the mandate by the Egyptian people on June 30,” Ibrahim said. “We are up to this responsibility for the sake of this great people.”
According to the ministry’s statement, a large number of Muslim Brothers have been arrested, although Ibrahim could not confirm reports that the leadership had also been taken into custody.
3:15 p.m.: The mother of a young woman who was shot and killed in Rabaa Al Adawiya Square published her heartbreaking final text message exchange with her daughter. Habiba Ahmed Abd Elaziz, 26, worked as a reporter for Dubai-based XPRESS and was on leave, not on official assignment, in her home country.
3:01 p.m.: The State Department is briefing reporters following remarks from Secretary of State John Kerry. McClatchy Newspapers reporter Hannah Allam is on scene:
The pro-Morsi Anti-Coup Alliance has released a statement calling today’s violence a “major massacre” and called for worldwide condemnation of the military government for its attacks on protesters.
The statement, posted on the Muslim Brotherhood’s English-language website, also says that the group will continue with their strategy of non-violence.
“The Alliance affirms its insistence on peaceful resistance and reiterates its call to all Egyptians to mass in non-violent vigils and protest rallies in public squares in all the provinces of Egypt, until the coup is completely defeated,” said the statement.
The Alliance accused the military of killing “more than 2000 people and wounding more than ten thousand.” These accusations have been repeated by Brotherhood sources but remain unconfirmed. The AP reports that the current known death toll is 149, with over 2000 wounded.
Both the Alliance and Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad have claimed that the military is indiscriminately targeting protesters, in some cases burning buildings and tents with civilians still inside.
Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem Al Beblawi is addressing the nation on state TV:
“Without security there is no political stability… We cannot restore our economy in the absence of security,” he said. “For these reasons we were forced to intervene, and when we intervened we observed the highest degrees of self restraint.”
1:44 p.m.: The White House released the full statement from earlier today condemning the Egyptian military’s use of violence against protesters.
1:27 p.m.: State TV is reporting that the curfew is postponed to 9 p.m. local time (3 p.m. EST).
ElBaradei, a moderate voice in the interim government, had previously opposed the forcible removal of pro-Morsi protesters. A “voice of reason” and “man of conscience” according to the LA Times, ElBaradei was jointly awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 as head of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
“It has become too difficult to continue bearing responsibility for decisions I do not agree with and whose consequences I fear,” ElBaradei wrote in the letter to interim president Adly Mansour. “I believe this violence could have been avoided.”
The resignation also warned that attacks on protesters would provoke more violence and energize insurgent groups. “Unfortunately those who gain from what happened today are those who call for violence and terror, the extremist groups,” he wrote.
His moderate approach has drawn criticism from those who have argued for a harder line against the Muslim Brotherhood. Gamal Ghitani, a columnist for Egypt’s state-run newspaper Al Akhbar, called ElBaradei “an enemy of the state,” and the LA Times reports that officials with connections to the Mubarak-era had been skeptical of his allegiance to the interim government.
Tamarod, the organization that led the grassroots opposition movement to force out former president Mohamed Morsi, has joined the ranks of ElBaradei critics:
1:00 p.m.: The government-imposed curfew takes effect at 7:00 p.m. local time (1 p.m. EST) and runs through 6:00 a.m., during which Cairo’s underground metro will be closed. The curfew will last for one month and applies to Cairo and 13 other provinces. Egyptian state TV said journalists will be permitted to stay out.
Cairo-based freelance reporter Ian Lee writes:
11:58 a.m.: White House continuing to review aid to Egypt
In the Obama administration’s first statement on today’s violence, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the administration will continue to review the $1.3 billion dollars in aid currently given to Egypt by the United States.
“The United States strongly condemns the use of violence against protesters in Egypt,” Earnest said. “The world is watching what is happening Cairo.”
In late July, the White House delayed the delivery of four F-16 fighter jets to the Egyptian military but did not alter other aid commitments.
The administration has gone to great lengths to continue providing aid to Egypt despite the removal of democratically elected president Mohammed Morsi. According to US law, it is illegal to provide funds to any country in which a democratically elected head of government has been overthrown by a ” military coup or decree.”
The Obama administration previously said it would avoid this restriction by refusing to designate whether or not the ouster of elected Morsi constituted a coup.
11:39 a.m.: International leaders are raising concerns with the mounting violence in Egypt. Abdullah Gul, president of Turkey, a supporter of the former Muslim Brotherhood government, calls the military’s actions “unacceptable.” Check CNN.com for a full round-up.
William Hague, British Foreign Secretary
“I am deeply concerned at the escalating violence and unrest in Egypt, and regret the loss of life on all sides … I condemn the use of force in clearing protests and call on the security forces to act with restraint.”
Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General
“While the UN is still gathering precise information about today’s events, it appears that hundreds of people were killed or wounded in clashes between security forces and demonstrators … Just days ago, the Secretary-General renewed his call for all sides in Egypt to reconsider their actions in light of new political realities and the imperative to prevent further loss of life. The Secretary-General regrets that Egyptian authorities chose instead to use force to respond to the ongoing demonstrations.”
Abudullah Gul, President of Turkey
“What is happening in Egypt today is unacceptable. Assaults on protesters and civilians are unacceptable. These may lead to dangerous results whatever the reasons are.”
11:34 a.m.: If you’re just joining, here’s a recap of the morning’s clashes in Cairo:
The military gave up negotiation efforts earlier today and attempted to forcibly remove the protesters from two long-term protest sites. Operations to clear the gatherings began at dawn, and by midday the Nahda Square sit-in outside Cairo University was an empty plot of burning tires and smoldering tents, Time Correspondent Ashraf Khalil reports from Cairo. Across the city at the Rabaa Adaweya mosque in Nasr City, police approached with helicopters and bulldozers and a bloody battle raged through the day. Clashes have spread to other districts in the country.
Egypt’s military government announced a month-long state of emergency that began in the afternoon. According to a government state statement, the state of emergency was necessary because “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 storming of the sit-in camps could mark the beginning of a new phase of the Egyptian political crisis. By purging the Brotherhood, the interim government might be able to begin organizing a new transitional roadmap—including scheduling fresh parliamentary and presidential elections.
The army vowed on Sunday to clear sit-ins by supporters of deposed president Mohammed Morsi within 24 hours and potentially as early as Monday morning. But the military later delayed dispersing the protests as parties scrambled to find a peaceful solution.
— Jacob Davidson
11:05 a.m.: Associated Press: The Egyptian government declared a nighttime curfew in Cairo and 10 provinces. The
10:58 a.m.: UK Broadcaster Sky News reports that a cameraman for the organization, Mick Deane, was shot and killed covering the clashes. Deane, 61, had been based in Washington and Jerusalem in his 15-year-career at Sky News.
10:30 a.m.: The Health Ministry has raised the casualty toll to 95 killed and 874 injured.
10:08 a.m.: The Egyptian stock exchange will be closed tomorrow amid the ongoing turmoil. The market dropped 1.70 % to 5549.19 on Wednesday.
10:01 a.m.: Expect a White House response from Martha’s Vineyard at 11:00 a.m., says CBS News White House Correspondent Peter Maer.
9:48 a.m.: The interim president declared a month-long state of emergency in Egypt, reviving a policy under former President Hosni Mubarak that ended soon after his ouster. The announcement comes amid mass arrests of protesters and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, including senior politician Mohamed El-Beltagi.