UPDATE 9:50 a.m. ET: Egypt state TV reports the Egyptian presidency has declared a month-long state of emergency across the nation, according to the Associated Press.
Dozens of Egyptians were killed Wednesday as police moved in to break up protesters who have been camping out in support of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, according to news agencies and Middle East news sites.
Numbers of those killed varied greatly, from 56 according to the Associated Press, 30 according to Reuters, 43 according to Al Arabiya and 94 according to Al Jazeera, which is widely seen in the region as being pro-Muslim Brotherhood. The numbers of casualties were expected to change as the day developed and more accurate information could be gleaned. Thousands had been protesting against the interim government, demanding that Morsi be returned to office.
Two reporters were said to be among those killed: Mick Deane, a reporter for Britain’s Sky News, was shot dead, and Habiba Ahmed Abd Elaziz, a Dubai-based reporter for the United Arab Emirates XPRESS.
Egypt’s state news agency reported two security officers were killed by gunfire during the clashes.
The AP described the scene:
Egyptian police in riot gear swept in with armored vehicles and bulldozers Wednesday to clear two sprawling encampments of supporters of the country’s ousted Islamist president in Cairo, showering protesters with tear gas as the sound of gunfire rang out. At least 15 people were killed.
Smoke clogged the sky 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 were ongoing at the main site near a mosque that has served as the epicenter of the pro-Morsi campaign.
For days there have been rumors posted on Facebook and Twitter suggesting the military was planning to break up the Cairo sit-ins demanding Morsi be reinstated as president. Reuters reported:
The operation, which suggested that the powerful military had lost patience with persistent protests that were crippling parts of the capital and slowing the political process, began just after dawn with helicopters hovering over the camps.
Gunfire rang out as protesters, among them women and children, fled Rabaa, and clouds of black smoke rose into the air. Armored vehicles moved in beside bulldozers which began clearing tents. One witness saw 15 bodies at a field hospital.
Clashes were reported in other parts of Cairo and outside the capital city “with police stations, government buildings and churches attacked or set ablaze” according to the AP.
Banks were closed as well as key tourist sites such as the Pyramids of Giza.
Morsi continues to be held at an undisclosed location after he was removed from office on July 3 following massive demonstrations demanding his resignation. Since then, the country has been gripped with protests and violence as well as terrorist activity in the Sinai Peninsula.
“The world cannot sit back and watch while innocent men, women and children are being indiscriminately slaughtered. The world must stand up to the military junta’s crime before it is too late,” the Muslim Brotherhood said in a statement to the AP.
The government issued a statement, according to Reuters, insisting that police showed the “utmost degree of self-restraint.”
Al Arabiya quotes the Egyptian news agency saying that the security “operation began shortly after dawn when security forces surrounded the sprawling Rabaa al-Adawiya camp in east Cairo and a similar one at Nahda square, in the center of the capital.”
This post has been updated.