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
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Life and Style
life
News
Melissa and Joan Rivers together at an NBC event in May 2014
peopleDaughter Melissa thanks fans for 'outpouring of support'
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
One in six drivers cannot identify a single one of the main components found under the bonnet of an average car
motoringOne in six drivers can't carry out basic under-bonnet checks
News
i100
Voices
Pupils educated at schools like Eton (pictured) are far more likely to succeed in politics and the judiciary, the report found
voices
News
peopleWrestling veteran drifting in and out of consciousness
Arts and Entertainment
Shady character: Jon Hamm as sports agent JB Bernstein in Million Dollar Arm
filmReview: Jon Hamm finally finds the right role on the big screen in Million Dollar Arm
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

Research and Insight Analyst (Mathematics Graduate)

£25000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...

IT Support Manager - Staffordshire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Manager - Near...

Nursery assistants required for day to day roles in Cambridge

£10000 - £15000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £40 - £50K first year: SThree: SThree Group an...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone