Tense calm envelops Cairo after bloody Wednesday

Traffic was allowed into Rabaa al-Adawiya Square for the first time in 48 days, as cleaning crews cleared the destroyed tent city in the aftermath of the Wednesday`s violent crackdown

Traffic was allowed into Rabaa al-Adawiya Square for the first time in 48 days, as cleaning crews cleared the destroyed tent city in the aftermath of the Wednesday`s violent crackdown

By Ahmed el-Sayed - Anadolu Agency

CAIRO - A state of tense calm prevailed on Thursday morning in the vicinity of Rabaa al-Adawiya Square, the scene of a deadly security crackdown one day earlier on supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi.

Traffic was allowed into the square for the first time in 48 days, as cleaning crews cleared the destroyed tent city in the aftermath of the crackdown, which left burnt cars, crushed tents and smashed sidewalks in its wake. The once-white Rabaa al-Adawiya Mosque, meanwhile, was left charred black.

Tensions were high in another nearby mosque, which houses the bodies of Morsi supporters cut down during the police operation. Nasr City`s Iman Mosque received at least 350 bodies, many of them completely charred, after the Rabaa al-Adawiya Mosque was set on fire late Wednesday.

"In the past few hours, many burnt bodies have been found inside tents and in streets adjacent to the square," one doctor, preferring anonymity, told the Anadolu Agency, noting that many bodies had been burnt beyond recognition.

Feelings of shock and sorrow cast their shadow over the mosque as grief-stricken relatives were unable to identify their missing loved ones.

The police crackdown on the square left at least 202 dead, out of 525 deaths nationwide registered by the Health Ministry.

However, the official death toll remains far below figures given by the National Alliance for the Defense of Legitimacy, a coalition of pro-Morsi Islamist parties and figures, which has put the number of deaths from the dispersal of the Rabaa sit-in alone at some 2,600.

Similar scenes were seen Thursday morning in Giza`s Nahda Square, the site of a smaller sit-in that was also violently dismantled on Wednesday. According to Health Ministry figures, at least 87 people were killed there.

As news broke of the deadly crackdowns, angry protesters took to the streets in provinces across the country.

In the canal city of Ismailia, skirmishes between Morsi supporters and police forces raged near a court complex close to the governor`s headquarters. At least 18 people -- 11 protesters and seven security personnel -- were killed in the violence, Ibrahim al-Desouki, head of the city`s ambulance service, said.

Violence was also reported in the provinces of Suez, Alexandria, Assiut, Fayoum, Minya, Sharqiya, Beheira, and North Sinai.

News of the massive death toll also triggered a wave of attacks against police stations and churches across the country. At least 18 churches and 31 police facilities were reportedly targeted on Wednesday.

Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim accused Morsi`s Muslim Brotherhood group of being behind the attacks on police facilities, including one in Kerdasa, south of Cairo, where, the ministry claimed, protesters stormed a police station and killed four police officers before mutilating their bodies.

Ibrahim asserted that at least 43 police officers had been killed nationwide on Wednesday.

In a bid to impose law and order, the government declared an eleven-hour daily curfew in 14 provinces -- to last for one month -- starting Wednesday. On Wednesday evening, the streets of the usually-bustling capital were eerily quiet.

The government-imposed curfew prompted groups of young men to stand guard at neighborhood entry points to fill the security vacuum caused by the preoccupation of the police with clearing the pro-Morsi sit-ins.

- Anger mounts outside teeming Cairo morgue

Anger and sorrow were palpable at Cairo`s main Zeinhom Morgue on Thursday, as bodies continued to stream into the already overwhelmed facility.

An Anadolu Agency correspondent at the scene reported that dozens of bodies lay on the street outside the morgue after officials announced the facility had reached full capacity.

Anguished family members placed blocks of ice on the bodies of their slain relatives to protect them from the simmering heat.

The smell of death began filling the air, however, once the ice melted, producing puddles of water mixed with blood.

Dozens of bodies remained lined up next to each other as family members waited their turn to take bodies inside in hopes of obtaining the necessary burial permits.

Some grieving relatives blamed both sides of Egypt`s ongoing political conflict, whether the Muslim Brotherhood or the army and police.

The Health Ministry has said that at least 525 people were killed in nationwide violence on Wednesday, including 202 in Rabaa al-Adawiya and 87 in Nahda Square.

- Egypt prepares for mass funerals of slain protesters

Relative calm appeared to prevail in the streets of Cairo, which saw Wednesday one of its deadliest days since Egypt`s 2011 revolution, with several funerals planned Thursday for those who fell in yesterday`s bloody crackdown on supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi.

According to the Health Ministry, at least 525 were killed nationwide in Wednesday`s violence, including 202 people cut down during the dispersal of a main pro-Morsi sit-in in Cairo`s Rabaa al-Adawiya Square.

However, the official death toll remains far below figures given by the pro-Morsi National Alliance for the Defense of Legitimacy, which has put the number of deaths from the Rabaa sit-in alone at 2,600.

Streets of the usually-bustling capital were eerily quiet in the early hours of Thursday, as a government-imposed curfew went into effect in 14 of Egypt`s 27 provinces.

Most banks, government offices and businesses remained closed, while many citizens opted to stay in their homes due to fears of renewed violence.

Traffic was allowed into Rabaa al-Adawiya Square and Giza`s Nahda Square -- which until yesterday had been the two main pro-Morsi protest sites -- for the first time in six weeks.

Cleaning crews could be seen clearing the two destroyed tent cities in the aftermath of Wednesday`s crackdown.

The pro-Morsi alliance has called for Thursday demonstrations in the Upper Egyptian Assiut province to denounce yesterday`s violence.

Other provinces were also expected to see major demonstrations on Thursday.

- Morsi supporters storm Giza governor`s complex

Angry supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi on Thursday stormed the Giza governor`s office before setting it alight in the conspicuous absence of security forces.

Hundreds of protesters massed outside the Khatam al-Morsalein Mosque before marching through the streets of Giza to the governor`s office, witnesses told Anadolu Agency.

They broke into the building where they hung several posters bearing Morsi`s image.

According to an AA correspondent at the scene, none of the civil servants working at the complex reported to work on Thursday, while police and army troops were nowhere to be seen.

- Egypt`s interim PM vows decisive action against attacks on churches

Egypt`s interim Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi on Thursday vowed that his government would deal decisively with attacks on Coptic Christians and their churches.

"Muslim-Christian unity is a red line," al-Beblawi said in a phone call to Coptic Pope Tawadros II, according to a cabinet statement obtained by the Anadolu Agency.

"The powers of darkness and terrorism cannot shake or weaken this unity," he added.

At least 18 Coptic churches across Egypt were attacked on Wednesday as political violence raged nationwide.

In Deir Mawas in the Upper Egyptian province of Minya, a group of unidentified assailants hurled Molotov cocktails at the churches of Anba Abraam and the Virgin Mary, causing minor damage to the two buildings.

A separate fire-bomb attack targeted a clinic affiliated with Minya`s Church of Saint Menas.

Also in Minya, seven Coptic-owned homes were torched in the village of Delga, along with an Evangelical church in the nearby Abu Hilal area.

A fifth church in Minya was besieged by unidentified attackers, while two others were set on fire.

In Fayoum, south of Cairo, two churches were ransacked by protesters.

A church in Upper Egypt`s Sohag province was also subject to an arson attack, eyewitnesses said.

In the adjacent province of Assiut, angry protesters set fire to a monastery in al-Qawsiya city, while eyewitnesses also said that the Nahdet al-Qadasa church had been set ablaze.

A third church was also stormed by protesters in the city of Abnob.

Meanwhile, in the North Sinai city of Arish, unidentified attackers also set fire to Mar Girgis Church, as protesters besieged another church of the same name in the Nile Delta city of Tanta.

Three churches in the canal city of Suez were similarly attacked by angry mobs, leaving one Coptic bishop and a number of church workers injured.

Al-Azhar, Egypt`s most venerable Islamic institution, condemned the attacks, saying such incidents were "religiously forbidden" and served to distort the image of Islam and its teachings.

Copyright © 2013 Anadolu Agency