CAIRO — Riot police swept in with armored vehicles, bulldozers and helicopters today to clear two sprawling encampments of supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, sparking running street battles elsewhere in Cairo and other Egyptian cities. At least 149 people were killed, many of them in the assaults on the protest vigils.
Interim President Adly Mansour declared a monthlong state of emergency, ordering the armed forces to support the police in efforts to restore law and order and protect state facilities.
Smoke clogged the sky above Cairo and fires smoldered on the streets, which were lined with charred poles and tarps after several tents were burned. The smaller camp was cleared relatively quickly, but clashes continued at the main site near a mosque that has served as the epicenter of the pro-Morsi campaign.
Clashes also broke out elsewhere in the capital and other provinces across the country, injuring more than 800 people nationwide, as Islamist anger over the crackdown spread, with police stations, government buildings and Coptic Christian churches attacked or set ablaze.
The assault came after days of warnings by the military-backed interim administration that replaced Morsi after he was ousted in a July 3 coup. The two sit-in camps at two major intersections on opposite sides of the Egyptian capital began in late June to show support for Morsi. Protesters — many from Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood — have demanded his reinstatement.
The Egyptian Central Bank instructed commercial banks to close branches in areas affected by the chaos, a sign of alarm that the violence could spiral out of control. The landmark Giza Pyramids and the Egyptian Museum also were closed to visitors for the day as a precaution, according to the Ministry of Antiquities.
The turmoil was the latest chapter a bitter standoff between Morsi’s supporters and the interim leadership took over the Arab world’s most populous country. The military ousted Morsi after millions of Egyptians massed in the streets to call for him to step down, accusing him of giving the Brotherhood undue influence and failing to implement vital reforms or bolster the ailing economy.
The coup provoked similar protests by Morsi’s backers after he and other Brotherhood leaders were detained as divisions have deepened, dealing a major blow to hopes of a return to stability after the 2011 revolution that toppled autocratic ruler Hosni Mubarak.