Thursday, August 15, 2013

Egypt Death Toll Passes 500 as Rally Looms - Wall Street Journal

The death toll from Egypt's wave of violence on Wednesday climbed to at least 525, fueling anger and deepening the political cleavages in the Arab world's most populous nation.

Cairo's streets were mostly calm Thursday morning in neighborhoods not affected by violence the previous day, as the overnight military curfew kept many people at home. But funerals for dead demonstrators and security officials that kicked off in the afternoon, as well as plans by supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood to restart their demonstrations, are likely to inflame tensions later in the day.

The Ministry of Health reported that the number of people killed across the country on Wednesday rose to 525 people, with 3,717 injured, after Egypt's military regime launched a bloody crackdown on Islamist protesters in Cairo, which sparked a day of violence across the country. Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim said 43 policemen died in the assault, the Associated Press reported.

The statistics released by the government—nearly double the toll reported late Wednesday—was met by disbelief by many Egyptians across the capital, with supporters of the imprisoned leader adamantly insisting that the killing was more severe. Discrepancies about the body count has become a defining issue in the political stalemate in Egypt, with the Muslim Brotherhood convinced that Egypt's armed forces are waging an existential war against their movement.

At Raba'a al Adiwiya square in Nasr City, the heart of the protest movement that was cleared Wednesday, there was a swelling atmosphere of triumph by both the armed forces who helped clear the streets of the Brotherhood demonstration and the Egyptians who support the army's cause.

At midday Thursday, dozens of eager Egyptians gathered at the gates of burned husk of the mosque, smiling and snapping photos of themselves at what one middle-aged woman gleefully called "the last cave of the terrorists," referring to the supporters of Mr. Morsi.

The crowds clapped the shoulders of the military patrol who had set up checkpoints at the once-busy intersection now scarred with burned hulks of cars.

Sanitation crews, meanwhile, worked in the shadow of the mosque collecting the piles of rotting food, ripped clothes and detritus that are the tattered remains of what had been a boisterous tent city only days earlier.

Only one street away from the mosque, however, life was starting to get back to normal. A shopkeeper scrubbed the rust-colored blood stains that smeared the pavement. Standing over a mop and bucket of sudsy water, he expressed hope for a return to normalcy. "I won't dance on the graves of the dead. I don't want to talk about anything but the future," said Mohammed Basha, the shopkeeper.

Just a few miles away on Makhram Ebeid street, Muslim Brotherhood supporters started posting what they called a public list of their dead. The handwritten lists on white poster board hung by packing tape on the outside gates of the Iman Mosque had 231 names of people killed in Wednesday's violence. The names—almost all of them men—hailed from Nasr City, greater Cairo and Alexandria.

The lists hung next to campaign photos of Mr. Morsi, and hundreds of Brotherhood supporters gathered in the quiet neighborhood streets as a sign of solidarity for the family members coming to check whether the names of their loved ones were posted.

By the time of noon prayers, an estimated 400 people had gathered to pray inside and out on the streets. Inside the mosque, at least 13 bodies were laid out being prepared for funerals.

"The solution is not to go home. We must continue to show that we are not beaten and justice must come," said a man who identified himself as Adel, an engineer that works for a state-owned company. He was grazed by a bullet Wednesday at the Rabaa square battle and was still wearing the same blood-soaked shirt.

Chanting broke out on the street as the prayer ended: "They have the gun but we have Allah." They started calling for a new revolution to honor the dead from Wednesday.

Wednesday's violence prompted the government to declared a monthlong, national state of emergency, and interim vice president Mohamed ElBaradei to resign. His exit stripped away an important veneer of civilian participation in the regime set up by the military's chief, Gen. Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, who responded to popular protests against Mr. Morsi in July by removing him and installing the interim government.

Swift and severe condemnation of the deadly attacks and state of emergency rolled in from Turkey, Europe and the United Nations. The U.S., one of Egypt's chief allies and benefactors, called the events deplorable and threatened to call off joint military exercises that were set to start next month.

Write to Margaret Coker at margaret.coker@wsj.com


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