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Egypt death toll exceeds 500

By Agencies in Cairo | China Daily | Updated: 2013-08-16 08:53

 Egypt death toll exceeds 500

A poster of deposed Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi lies on the ground as military police stand outside the burnt Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, the morning after the clearing of a protest camp around the mosque, in Cairo on Thursday. Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood called on followers to march in protest in Cairo on Thursday, after at least 500 people were killed in a security crackdown on the Islamist movement. Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters

Clashes continue; world leaders condemn Wednesday's violence

Egyptian authorities on Thursday significantly raised the death toll from clashes the previous day between police and supporters of the ousted Islamist president, saying more than 500 people died and laying bare the extent of the violence that swept much of the country and prompted the government to declare a nationwide state of emergency and a nighttime curfew.

The death toll, which stood at 525, according to the latest Health Ministry figures, makes Wednesday by far the deadliest day since the 2011 popular uprising that toppled longtime ruler and autocrat Hosni Mubarak - a grim milestone that does not bode well for the future of a nation roiled in turmoil and divisions for the past 2 years.

Health Ministry spokesman Khaled el-Khateeb put the number of injured on Wednesday at 3,717.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group from which ousted President Mohammed Morsi hails, put the death toll at a staggering 2,600 and the injured at around 10,000.

The discrepancy between the government's body count and that of the opposition highlights the difficulty of obtaining reliable figures in an environment where journalists have had difficulty operating freely and in safety.

Fresh escalation

The clashes continued on Thursday, with supporters of Morsi launching attacks on police posts in two provinces, killing at least two policemen, security officials said.

A 21-year-old policeman was fatally shot in the chest and arm in the North Sinai town of Al-Arish after gunmen attacked the Police Club.

Another policeman was killed in an attack on a police station in the central city of Assiut.

In Cairo, Islamist protesters stormed the Giza governorate headquarters and set it on fire, state television reported. Private Egyptian television channel CBC showed footage of the headquarters in flames as men tried to douse the fire with hoses.

Near the site of one of the smashed encampments of Morsi supporters in the eastern Nasr City district, an Associated Press reporter on Thursday saw dozens of blood soaked bodies stored inside a mosque. The bodies were wrapped in sheets and still unclaimed by families.

Relatives at the scene were uncovering the faces in an attempt to identify their loved ones. Many complained that authorities were preventing them from obtaining permits to bury their dead.

El-Khateeb said that 202 of the 525 total were killed in the Nasr City protest camp, but it was not immediately clear whether the bodies at the mosque were included in that figure. Another Health Ministry spokesman, Mohammed Fathallah, said he had no knowledge of the bodies at the el-Iman mosque.

Victims' names were scribbled on white sheets covering their bodies, some of which were charred. Posters of Morsi were scattered on the floor.

Probe needed

Egypt's military rulers faced condemnation over the bloody crackdown, with France warning of the threat of "civil war" and Turkey demanding UN action.

The United States led the global outcry against the "deplorable" violence, while Paris, London, Berlin and Rome summoned Egypt's ambassadors to voice their strong concern.

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a supporter of Morsi, called for an urgent UN Security Council meeting over Egypt's "massacre" of the demonstrators.

French President Francois Hollande said "everything must be done to avoid a civil war" in Egypt, while his government conveyed France's "great concern over the tragic events" to Egypt's envoy.

Britain also condemned the violence, expressed its "deep concern" to Egypt's envoy and urged "the greatest restraint".

UN rights chief Navi Pillay also demanded a wide-ranging probe.

"The number of people killed or injured, even according to the government's figures, point to an excessive, even extreme, use of force against demonstrators," Pillay said. "There must be an independent, impartial, effective and credible investigation of the conduct of the security forces. Anyone found guilty of wrongdoing should be held to account."

China urges restraint

China on Thursday urged all parties in Egypt to exercise restraint and resolve their differences through dialogue.

"China is paying close attention to the situation in Egypt, and is deeply concerned about its development," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei while commenting on the Egyptian police's decision to clear protest camps in Cairo, where supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi had gathered.

Hong said China hoped all parties would put the interests of the country and people first and exercise restraint to avoid more casualties. He called on all sides to resolve their differences through dialogue and to restore order and social stability.

AP - AFP - Xinhua

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