Egypt's day of shame: Scores killed and hundreds more injured as government declares war on Islamists

Mohamed el-Baradei, the vice President and Nobel laureate, resigns in protest over the crackdown

Cairo

As machine gun fire crackled around the besieged Islamist encampment in eastern Cairo today, a 12-year-old boy called Omar was sat on a mattress drinking from his carton of orange juice. Just a few yards away, the bodies of 31 protesters lay on the grubby, blood-caked floor.

Many had been shot through the head and chest with high velocity bullets; some bore gnarled lips betraying the agonising throes of death.

When asked how he felt to witness such scenes, the young boy - wearing Puma flip-flops and blue jeans - remained silent and appeared confused for a few moments. Then, with childlike fragility, he said very simply: “It's not very nice”.

Whatever else the Egyptian state was hoping to achieve by launching its long-awaited crackdown, the hundreds of young children who were cowering inside the besieged sit-in will not likely forget the ferocity of a government which has now declared war on the country's Islamists.

Egypt's leaders have unleashed a chain of unforeseeable consequences. Deadly clashes were reported in provinces around the country, as police stations, government institutions and Coptic churches were attacked in apparent revenge attacks.

Scores were killed, hundreds more injured.

In a sign of how deeply the crackdown will affect Egypt's ongoing political transition, Mohamed el-Baradei, the vice President and Nobel laureate, resigned in protest over the crackdown. Meanwhile Egypt's interim government has imposed a month-long state of emergency and night time curfew.

Inside the Rabaa al-Adawiya Mosque, the building which lies at the heart of the east Cairo encampment, crying babies clung to their mothers as gunfire raged around them following the start of the operation.

In the centre of the prayer hall, laid out on the carpet among hundreds of women and toddlers in the stifling heat, ten bodies had been placed side by side inside a cordon.

A little girl of about seven or eight, wearing pink trousers and a T-shirt, made her way from one side of the mosque to the other by tottering between the heads of the corpses.

“The police and the army don't understand any language except force,” said Khalid Mohsen, a 50-year-old engineer who was trapped inside the siege. “They want to kill anybody who has an opposing view.”

Given the sheer level of firepower unleashed on protesters, it is a view which many Islamists may find hard to argue with.

According to witnesses the gunfire began early in the morning at around six o'clock, as security forces who had surrounded the site launched their ferocious assault. At a separate encampment in the west of the city, a similar operation was also ordered.

By late afternoon the shooting was still continuing. Heavy semi-automatic bursts of gunfire echoed around the nearby suburbs throughout the day. If there was any let up, it was brief. For about 10 hours, the supporters of Mohamed Morsi were subjected to a near-continuous barrage of live fire.

Single sniper shots shrieked down Nasr Road, the main thoroughfare leading through the camp; sustained bursts of machine gun fire clattered into nearby buildings; wayward rounds shredded through the labyrinthine networks of tents and tarpaulin shacks.

At the nearby hospital, staff draped the windows with blinds as a precaution against sniper rounds.

One doctor at the hospital, who gave his name only as Ahmed, said that even the Israeli invasion of Gaza in 2008 had not been as bad.

“I was working there as a medic during that battle,” he told The Independent. “The Jews were much more humane that what is happening today. Even in war, the rules are more respectable than this.

"In 12 days of fighting in Gaza, there were less dead than in six hours here."

Amid the dizzying chaos of the massacre - the third which has been perpetrated against Egypt's Islamists in a little over a month - reliable casualty figures were difficult to come by.

According to Egypt's Health Ministry, 149 people were confirmed dead. Yet the true figure is likely to be much higher. Dr Hisham Ibrahim, the head of the Rabaa al-Adawiya field clinic, told The Independent that several hundred people had been killed.

Whatever the final tally, the constant stream of bullet-riddled, disfigured protesters meant it was impossible to store the corpses properly. Inside a room which during the previous two massacres has been used as a morgue, 42 bodies were crammed up against each other on the floor.

As the carnage unfolded and more protesters were killed, other areas were appropriated to house the dead.

Behind the stage which has been used by Islamist leaders to rally pro-Morsi supporters for the past six weeks, 25 bodies were laid out wrapped in white shawls, unrefrigerated in the sweltering August sun.

Next to the Rabaa al-Adawiya Mosque - where flies were soon gathering on the ten corpses laid out in the prayer hall - another room being used as a makeshift morgue.

A total of 31 bodies had been placed here. Volunteers had no time for sentimentality; the same hall was being used to treat wounded protesters, many of whom were lying moaning in agony just yards from the nearby cadavers.

"It's a genocide," said Dr Yehia Makkayah, a medic at the Rabaa hospital. "They want us to disappear from the country. I could never imagine that Egyptians would shoot Egyptians using these weapons."

Such was the chaos inside the hospital, a reception area on the second floor had been utilised as yet another morgue to store a further 26 bodies. One floor up in a tiny storeroom, two more corpses were lying in gleaming pools of fresh blood.

Corridors barely two yards wide were lined with dozens upon dozens of wounded. Luckier patients received drip feeds from a friend or relative; those who were luckier still had the luxury of a hospital bed. The floors were sticky with blood and vomit.

The sheer volume of the dead and the dying meant it was often impossible to move up and down the main staircase. Injured protesters, most of them felled by live fire, were stretchered up to the operating rooms, blood trickling from their wounds as they went. The dead were stretchered in the other direction, down to the lower level morgues.

"The army are the dogs of the Israelis," said Mohamed Mostafa, a vet who was keeping vigil at the bedside of his brother-in-law, a 36-year-old whose spine had been shattered by a bullet. "They are not Egyptians."

At the main morgue beside the field clinic, the mother of one victim, 16-year-old Malik Safwat, struggled to reach him through the tightly-packed rows of corpses.

"Don’t move that body," said one of the morgue attendants to a volunteer trying to clear a path. "Move a lighter one." She eventually found him, tearfully shaking his left knee from side to side as if to try and wake him up. His sister had also arrived. "My darling," she said in a trembling voice. “Why my darling?”

By around 5pm, the security services had gained access to the hospital and were clearing everybody out into the surrounding streets. Thousands of people began filing out of the camp, as police bulldozers moved in to destroy the remaining tents.

Condemnation as death toll nears 300 mark

Amid the dizzying chaos of the massacre – the third which has been perpetrated against Egypt’s Islamists in a little over a month – reliable casualty figures were difficult to come by.

Egyptian state news agency said 235 were killed across the country today and 2,001 were injured. Yet the true figure is likely to be much higher. The Associated Press news agency reported 278 deaths. And at least 250 have died since the army seized power last month.

Western powers condemned the bloodshed with US Secretary of State John Kerry and David Cameron both denouncing the violence. Mr Kerry said that the “path toward violence leads only to greater instability, economic disaster and suffering”.

Alex Delmar-Morgan

LIVE: Latest updates on Cairo bloodshed

Click here to see more images

Supporters of Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi and members of the Muslim Brotherhood run from tear gas smoke shot by police to disperse a pro-Morsi camp Supporters of Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi

Egyptian security forces clear a sit-in by supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in the eastern Nasr City district of Cairo Egyptian security forces clear a sit-in by supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi

A fire rages in a protest tent as Egyptian security forces moved in to disperse supporters of the nation's ousted president Mohamed Morsi (portraits) by force in a huge camp near Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in eastern Cairo A fire rages in a protest tent as Egyptian security forces moved in to disperse supporters

Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi chant slogans against Egyptian Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi during clashes with Egyptian security forces in Cairo's Mohandessin neighborhood, Egypt Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi chant slogans

Riot police move in to disperse supporters of Egypt's deposed president Mohammed Morsi from a protest camp in Cairo's Al-Nahda square Riot police move in to disperse supporters of Egypt's deposed president Mohammed Morsi  

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan stars as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie
filmFirst look at Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades of Grey trailor
News
Lars Ulrich of Metallica performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
music
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Service Charge Accountant

£20,000 - £22,000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Property Management Grou...

Head of Sales, London

£70 - 95K OTE £125K. Plus Car,Private Healthcare and Pension: Charter Selectio...

Head of Sales, Milton Keynes

£70 - 90K OTE £125K. Plus Car,Private Healthcare and Pension: Charter Selectio...

Head of Sales, Bristol

£70 - 90K OTE £125K. Plus Car,Private Healthcare and Pension: Charter Selectio...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game