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PD Editorial: Cairo erupts in chaos, violence

  • Egyptian security forces clear a sit-in camp set up by supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in Nasr City district, Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013. Egyptian security forces, backed by armored cars and bulldozers, moved on Wednesday to clear two sit-in camps by supporters of the country's ousted President Mohammed Morsi, showering protesters with tear gas as the sound of gunfire rang out at both sites. (AP Photo/Ahmed Gomaa)

After a six-week standoff with Islamist supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's capital erupted in violence on Wednesday, triggered by a senseless and bloody crackdown by the country's military forces.

Officials estimate that nearly 300 people — including more than 40 police officers — were killed in the clashes that erupted in Cairo and across the nation after Egyptian security forces raided and opened fire on two massive protest camps, killing or injuring hundreds of people.

The New York Times reported that at least one protester was burned alive in his tent, and many tents were bulldozed or torn apart by military personnel. Other protesters were killed by bullet wounds to the head and chest. Three journalists also were reportedly killed during the raids.

Violence In Egypt

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Late in the day, the nation's military-backed interim government appointed by Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi declared a one-month state of emergency for the entire country, suspending the right to a trial or due process. This was the strongest and bloodiest crackdown on rights in the nation since the days of near-marital law under President Hosni Mubarack, who was forced out of office in 2011.

It also marked another black eye in diplomacy for the United States, which had urged Sisi not to respond violently to the sit-in protests.

Military officials say the assaults were necessary because they had evidence of massive weapons storage and "torture" occurring in the protest camps. But as of late Wednesday, they have done little to support that.

The White House quickly and rightly condemned the attacks, saying they ran counter to the interim government's pledge to restore the nation's democratic infrastructure. Secretary of State John Kerry called the events "deplorable." Deplorable not only in the casualty count but in the damage done to hopes of stability for America's long-time ally.

These now mark the darkest days for Egypt since that season of change in the Middle East two years ago known as Arab Spring. If the democratic hopes of that awakening are to survive, they're going to have to endure yet another setback — this one under a hail of gunfire from a military that shows no signs of wanting to relinquish control.


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