Chaos in Egypt After Army Storms Pro-Morsi Camps

Player utilities

This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman and this is The World. It's been mayhem and violence in Cairo today. Security forces swarmed in to clear two massive protest camps filled with supporters of the ousted president Mohammed Morsi. Egyptian authorities say at least 149 people were killed, but the numbers could be much higher. The military backed interim government has declared a month-long state of emergency. We start our coverage today with The New York Times' David Kirkpatrick in Cairo. David, tell us what you've seen today, please.

David Kirkpatrick: Well, I've seen a lot of blood. We visited several of the makeshift field hospitals setup around by Islamists around the main sit-in in Rabaa and we saw really high velocity of casualties, the dead and wounded, many with bullet wounds to the head and chest moving in and out of the dozens, really, dozens or scores moving in and out of these hospitals. So the expected death toll is going to be much higher. It's really a dramatic crackdown, you know, a day-long assault on largely unarmed civilians. It's a level of violence that might have knocked out the original January 2001 revolution if the security forces themselves empowered enough to unleash it at that time.

Werman: How are people in Cairo reacting to what happened today? It's so violent compared to what we've seen over the past two years.

Kirkpatrick: It seems the full reaction will unfold under a number of days or weeks. There've been outbreaks of violence around the city. Islamists marching from mosques around Cairo to try and support their besieged colleagues as much as they could. Some fighting, including gun fights with police as they try to make their way. The streets by the end of the day were completely deserted, almost spookily deserted. You mentioned the state of emergency, also a seven o'clock curfew. It should be noted that Mohammed ElBaradei, the vice president of the interim government, a Nobel Prize winning former diplomat, has resigned in protest. That's significant because he had lent his international prestige to convincing the west that this military employed interim government was actually intending to restart Eqyptian [inaudible 02:36]. That looks less and less likely, which begins to feel more and more like the full force survival of the old police state.

Werman: Have you spoken with anybody who has said that this violence today has pushed them, perhaps bystanders who were ambivalent about the Morsi ouster, to push them to say no, this is unacceptable?

Kirkpatrick: You know, I've talked to a couple of people, three people, who happened to come up to me and say hey, I didn't vote for Morsi and I'm not an Islamists and I am here because we can't have an elected president ousted by a military coup. But I have to say I believe those are few and far between right now. We have not seen a major outcry by nonIslamists about the plight of the Muslim Brotherhood and Mohammed Morsi supports. What we have seen is a lot of Islamists saying look, this is gonna drive many of us to violence. You know, in the 1990s here there was a lot of terrorism directed at the military-backed Mubarak autocracy. Egypt had seemed to move beyond that, but a lot of Islamists feel like they played by the rules, they won democratic elections and those victories have now been stoeln from them. And we saw quite a bit of kind of out of control violence and even sectarian violence today, attacks on Christians and churches around the country. At least two churches in the rural southern part of the country were burned, maybe more, I'm still sorting through the reports. So we're heading toward the period of very indeterminate turmoil. This is not over tomorrow. It's not over tonight, it's not over tomorrow and I'm not sure when it's over.

Werman: Just quickly, what is the Muslim Brotherhood saying right now?

Kirkpatrick: The last I heard they were urging Egyptians across the country to rally in the name of democracy and against the military coup. You know, I think it will take them a little while to react to the severity of this crackdown.

Werman: The New York Times' David Kirkpatrick in Cairo, we'll leave it there. Thank you so much for your time.

Kirkpatrick: Good to talk to you.