CAIRO — Egyptian security forces crushed a protest camp of thousands of supporters of the deposed President yesterday, shooting dead scores of people in the bloodiest day in decades in the Arab world’s biggest country.
The health ministry said 149 people were killed, both in Cairo and in clashes that broke out elsewhere in the country.
Deposed President Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood said the death toll was far higher in what it described as a “massacre”.
Troops opened fire on demonstrators in violence that brought chaos to areas of the capital and looked certain to further polarise Egypt’s 84 million people between those who backed Morsi and the millions who opposed his brief rule.
The government imposed a month-long state of emergency, starting at 10am ET yesterday.
In the streets around the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in north-east Cairo, where thousands of Morsi supporters have staged a sit-in for the last six weeks, riot police wearing gas masks crouched behind armoured vehicles, teargas hung in the air and burning tyres sent plumes of black smoke into the sky.
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. A nurse at the hospital had said she counted 60 bodies, and expected the number to rise.
The unrest spread beyond the capital, with the cities of Minya and Assiut, and Alexandria on the northern coast, also affected.
Seventeen people were killed in the province of Fayoum south of Cairo. Five more died in Suez.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s interim Vice-President, Mohamed ElBaradei, resigned after the security forces violently broke up protest camps set up by supporters of the deposed Morsi.