Egypt Explodes Again

Here’s a terse but alarming account from Reuters’ Yasmine Saleh and Tom Finn of the latest events from Egypt:

At least 95 Egyptians were killed on Wednesday after security forces moved in on protesters demanding the reinstatement of President Mohamed Mursi, and the government imposed a state of emergency as violence swept the most populous Arab nation.

Troops opened fire on Islamist demonstrators in clashes that brought chaos to the capital and other cities and looked certain to further polarize Egypt’s 84 million people between those who backed Mursi and the millions who opposed his brief rule.

In the streets around the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in northeast Cairo, where thousands of Mursi supporters have staged a sit-in for the last six weeks, riot police wearing gas masks crouched behind armored vehicles, tear gas hung in the air and burning tires sent plumes of black smoke into the sky.

Several television stations ran footage of what appeared to be pro-Mursi protesters firing automatic rifles at soldiers from behind sandbag barricades.

At a hospital morgue nearby, a Reuters reporter counted 29 bodies, including that of a 12-year-old boy. Most had died of gunshot wounds to the head.

Violence spread beyond Cairo, with Mursi supporters and security forces clashing in the cities of Alexandria, Minya, Assiut, Fayoum and Suez and in Buhayra and Beni Suef provinces.

The health ministry put the overall death toll at 95 people, including both police and civilians, with other sources saying at least 17 were killed in Fayoum province and five in Suez.

Mursi supporters besieged and set fire to government buildings and several churches were attacked, state media said.

As The Guardian‘s Patrick Kingsley explains, the violence occurred when the military initiated a long-threatened plan to clear Egyptian cities of protest encampments:

The crackdown was aimed at ending pro-Morsi dissent – but the first signs were that the attacks had achieved the opposite. Forced out of west Cairo’s Nahda camp, hundreds of protesters reassembled at Mostafa Mahmoud Square in the north-east of the city, and further violence soon ensued. Protesters set light to a riot police lorry and ripped up pavements to build walls to protect the new site. Security forces quickly arrived, firing teargas – with sustained gunfire also heard.

Elsewhere in the city, pro-Morsi crowds assembled to march on Rabaa, while an upsurge in violence was reported in several locations across Egypt, including the northern port of Alexandria.

The month-long State of Emergency declared today is bound to bring back memories of a similar pronouncement in 1981 by Hosni Mubarak. It lasted thirty years.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.