Aug. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Hundreds of supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi torched government headquarters in Giza, as the death toll rose above 500 after a crackdown on Islamists calling for his reinstatement.
Brotherhood members attacked the building in Giza after hurling Molotov cocktails and firing gunshots, governorate spokesman Amin Abdel-Moneam said by phone. Televised footage showed flames and smoke billowing from the site, and local media said police repelled the assailants.
Mursi supporters also clashed with opponents in Alexandria, and set fire to a city council building in Sinai, according to officials. Earlier, Hamza Zawba, spokesman for the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, described yesterday’s raids on sit-ins in Cairo and Giza as “a massacre” and said, “we have no option but to continue to demonstrate.”
The army-backed government declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew as violence spread across the country after police stormed the camps where the Brotherhood was leading protests against Mursi’s overthrow. The death toll rose to at least 525, with more than 3,717 hurt, Health Ministry spokesman Mohamed Fathallah said by phone today. The Brotherhood said the figure was many times higher.
The worst violence since Egypt’s 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak deepened the conflict between the country’s two main groups, led by the army and the Brotherhood. The attack on the Islamists came after failed efforts to mediate a weeks-long standoff by diplomats from the U.S. and European Union, which both condemned the killings.
President Barack Obama said today that the U.S., which provides Egypt’s army with more than $1 billion a year under a decades-old alliance, will cancel joint military exercises scheduled next month, and consider further unspecified measures.
Obama condemned the violence against civilians, saying the military-backed government has taken a “dangerous path,” and called for the state of emergency to be lifted. He also criticized Mursi’s administration for not being “inclusive.”
Scores of people had already been killed, mostly by security forces, since Mursi’s overthrow by the army on July 3 after mass rallies against him. Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei resigned as vice president amid the crackdown yesterday, saying he didn’t want to bear responsibility for “bloodshed that could have been avoided.”
“There are very few moderates left” in Egypt, Ian Bremmer, founder of Eurasia Group, said in an interview today on Bloomberg Surveillance. “What had been one of the most important moderating countries for stability in the Middle East is now in free fall.”
Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi and Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim defended the crackdown in televised addresses, saying all other options to save Egypt had been exhausted. “It was necessary to take a firm stand,” El-Beblawi said. “When things spiral out of control, that’s unacceptable.” He said arms had been found at the camps.
Egypt’s 2020 Eurobonds extended losses, pushing the yield up 19 basis points to 8.97 percent at 4:30 p.m. in Cairo. The stock exchange and banks were closed today, for the first time other than on public holidays since the January 2011 uprising. The benchmark stock index fell 1.7 percent yesterday, the most worldwide.
Cairo’s streets were mostly empty today. Bulldozers were razing barricades at Rabaa square, opening some side streets to traffic as army officers looked on. The windows of the local mosque, which served as a makeshift field hospital until it was cleared by police, were charred and bloodied sheets were scattered outside.
“Fire was coming from all directions, nobody knew what was happening,” said Wael Mohamed, 37, at the mosque, where he took shelter yesterday. At another mosque nearby where the wounded and dead were taken after Rabaa was raided, a list of the names of at least 245 victims was hanging outside.
The Brotherhood and its allies have vowed to maintain demonstrations until Mursi is restored to office. Authorities won’t allow any new sit-ins, the interior minister said. The curfew in Cairo, Alexandria, Giza and about 10 other provinces will resume at 7 p.m. and will be renewed every night while the state of emergency lasts.
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