CAIRO: At least 464 people were killed in nationwide violence sparked bya crackdown on the protest camps of supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, government officials said on Thursday.
At least 421 civilians died in Wednesday’s violence, ministry spokesman Mohammed Fathallah said.
He said 137 people had been killed in the main Rabaa al-Adawiya camp which pro-Morsi protesters had occupied for weeks.
At the smaller of the two encampments in Nahda square, 57 people were killed and 227 died in the rest of the country, he said.
The interior ministry said 43 policemen had also been killed.
Despite the violence, Egypt’s press trumpeted the end of the pro-Morsi demonstrations, which had occupied two Cairo squares since the Islamist president’s July 3 ouster by the military.
“The nightmare of the Brotherhood is gone,” daily Al-Akhbar’s front-page headline read.
“The Brotherhood’s last battle,” added Al-Shorouk.
At least four churches were attacked, with Christian activists accusing Morsi loyalists of waging “a war of retaliation against Copts in Egypt.”
The day’s violence was the worst since the 2011 uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
The violence prompted vice president and Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei to resign, saying he was troubled over the loss of life, “particularly as I believe it could have been avoided.”
“It has become too difficult to continue bearing responsibility for decisions I do not agree with and whose consequences I fear,” he said.
The dramatic assault on the sit-ins shortly after dawn surprised many, coming after officials had described plans to gradually disperse the sit-ins over several days.
The operation began with security forces firing tear gas before surging into Rabaa al-Adawiya, sparking pandemonium among the thousands of protesters camping there in opposition to Morsi’s July 3 ouster by the military.
After the worst of the violence, many Morsi supporters were given safe passage out of the camp, some flashing victory signs as they left.
By Wednesday evening, a security official said Rabaa al-Adawiya was “totally under control,” adding: “There are no more clashes.”
In the smaller of the protest camps, at Al-Nahda square in central Cairo, police said they had control of the area after two hours.
Dozens rounded up in the dispersal were shown sitting on the ground, handcuffed and surrounded by security forces.
The United Nations, the European Union, Britain, France, Iran, Qatar and Turkey strongly denounced the use of force by the military-backed interim government to clear two protest camps in Cairo.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for an urgent UN Security Council meeting over the crackdown, while Denmark announced it has suspended development aid to Egypt.
The White House said Washington, which provides Egypt with $1.3 billion in annual military aid, “strongly condemns” the violence against the protesters and opposed the imposition of a state of emergency.
But Egypt’s interim Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi praised the police for their “self-restraint” and said the government remained committed to an army-drafted roadmap calling for elections in 2014.
The Brotherhood urged Egyptians to take to the streets in their thousands to denounce the “massacre.”
“This is not an attempt to disperse, but a bloody attempt to crush all voices of opposition to the military coup,” spokesman Gehad al-Haddad said on Twitter.