Scores of people have been killed in Egypt as security forces moved in to clear the Cairo camps of protesters demanding the reinstatement of deposed President Mohamed Mursi.
The Health Ministry said 235 people have died from the clashes in Cairo and other cities nationwide with 2,000 injured, but euronews’ Egypt correspondent said the death toll is likely to be higher as he had seen scores of bodies in one location alone in Cairo.
He described it as like a war zone.
The deaths came as police with armoured vehicles and bulldozers moved in to end a six-week standoff and clear the protest sites.
Eyewitnesses said security forces opened fire on demonstrators with shotguns and automatic rifles as tear gas canisters rained down.
The smaller of the two pro-Morsi camps – at Nahda, near Cairo University in the west of the city – appeared to have been cleared quickly, but it was early evening before the authorities finally took control of the much bigger camp around the Rabaa al-Adawiya Mosque in the Nasser City neighborhood of north-east Cairo.
Protesters could be see streaming out of the area having been given safe passage.
The violence has also spread to other cities, with deaths and injuries reported following attacks on government buildings and police stations in Alexandria in the north, Suez, and the province of Fayoum south of Cairo.
There was strong international reaction.
“The US strongly condemns the use of violence against protesters in Egypt,” said Josh Earnest, White House deputy press secretary.
“We have repeatedly called on Egypt’s security forces to show restraint,” he added, “Just as we’ve urged protesters to demonstrate peacefully.”
“We also strongly oppose a return to a state of emergency law and call on the interim government to respect basic human rights,” Earnest concluded, including the right to public assembly.
UN secretary General Ban Ki Moon condemned the violence used.
The European Union also deplored the deaths. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said: “Confrontation and violence is not the way forward to resolve key political issues.”
‘Islamists to blame’
The authorities blame Islamists for provoking the violence. State TV broadcast video which it said showed Mursi supporters shooting at the security forces.
It said six police had been killed in the clashes and 66 injured with four shot dead away from the main clashes at a Cairo police station .
The Egyptian presidency announced a one-month state of emergency across the country with a curfew from 7.00 pm to 6.00 am in Cairo and other major cities.
The latest violence appears sure to further polarise Egypt’s 84 million people between backers of Mursi and those who opposed his brief rule.
There were also reports of Christian churches being burned in revenge for Copt christians having supported the military-led removal of the president on July 3.
Violence erupted elsewhere in the Egyptian capital. There were clashes on the 6 October bridge, a major overpass through the centre of the city.
During running battles between the police and Mursi supporters, a bus was hijacked and driven at high speed into the police lines.
The violence had political repercussions.
Mohamed ElBaradei, a former UN diplomat, quit his post of vice president in the army-backed government, saying the conflict could have been resolved by peaceful means.
“The beneficiaries of what happened today are those call for violence, terrorism and the most extreme groups.”
Egypt’s second largest Islamist party called for an end to political violence it said threatened to split society.
The Nour Party said it held the army-backed government responsible for the bloodshed.
View Egypt – Cairo protests cleared in a larger map