Update: Some protesters leaving Rabea sit-in, death toll rises
Police forces have stormed the main field hospital at the Rabea al-Adaweya sit-in, an eyewitness told Mada Masr, forcing tens of medics and wounded protesters out.
Live streams of the sit-in from BBC and ONTv show some protesters leaving Rabea, many with their arms held above their heads after the Interior Ministry promised a safe exit.
The latest figures from the Ministry of Health put the death toll at around 149 with more than 1400 injured in nationwide violence in the wake of the dispersal of the two sit-ins in Cairo demanding the reinstatement of deposed President Mohamed Morsi Wednesday morning.
State television has reported armed attacks on police stations, hospitals and institutions in several cities, while several media outlets have advised citizens to form popular committees to protect their properties.
Different sources have reported varying numbers of casualties after security forces began dispersing the Rabea al-Adaweya and Nahda Square sit-ins. Ikhwan Online reported a staggering 2,200 deaths from the Rabea al-Adaweya field hospital.
Protesters regrouped in areas around Cairo immediately after security forces began the dispersal.
Eyewitnesses reported that protesters are gathering in Shubra, Abbasseya and Ramses Square, and have blocked Mostafa Mahmoud Square. Clashes have broken out in several neighborhoods in Cairo.
The area around Mohandiseen’s Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque became a new flashpoint when the nearby Nahda sit-in was dispersed. Fierce clashes are ongoing in the area.
An eyewitness in a building overlooking Gameat al-Dowal Street in Mohandiseen told Mada Masr that a large numbers of protesters arrived there after 10 am with automatic weapons. The surrounding streets are now on lock down. Police forces were initially outnumbered and fled the scene as the armed men set police and civilian cars on fire, she said. Police reportedly returned and dispersed them with tear gas and live fire before once again retreating.
A doctor at Rabea al-Adaweya’s field hospital, Rasha Refaat said that she was unable to count the injuries that she saw. “We’ve received a lot of injuries from live ammunition and birdshot, and while we were treating patients the Central Security Forces fired tear gas into the field hospital,” Refaat said, adding that CSF were around 50 meters away from the mosque that hosts the field hospital.
Dozens of protesters had gathered outside one security cordon, attempting to enter the sit-in, and forming human chains to prevent police from forcing them to leave.
Mada Masr witnessed live fire inside the field hospital leading to several head and chest injuries.
The state news agency MENA reported that 200 people were arrested in possession of weapons, 150 in Nahda and 50 in Rabea al-Adaweya.
The two sit-ins demanding the reinstatement of deposed President Mohamed Morsi have been going on for more than a month, since the removal of Morsi on July 3 by an army ultimatum prompted by mass protests against his rule.
Negotiations and diplomatic mediation to end the sit-ins and resolve the political stalemate have failed over the past few weeks. The interim presidency announced last week that foreign mediation efforts had failed, paving the way for more talk of forcibly dispersing the sit-ins and the Cabinet tasked the Interior Ministry with taking measures to do so.
Rami Ahmed, a school teacher from Monufiya who is part of the security team at the Rabea al-Adaweya sit-in, said he was behind the barricades set up by the protesters when the clashes started.
Ahmed said security forces started by firing tear gas, after which they proceeded to use live ammunition.
Security forces also had bulldozers that they used to tear down the barricades and tents, he said. Some of the tents were also set on fire by security forces, he added.
Ahmed said he saw protesters coming out of the bathrooms with gunshot wounds to the head caused by what he says was sniper fire. The protesters then attempted to block the sit-in again using cars.
Ahmed said he expects the sit-in to continue because people are already coming back inside.
“We don’t have any other option but to remain peaceful,” he told Mada Masr, “Every minute of us waiting here is a victory and what comes will be better.”
Ahmed is determined to stay at the sit-in, saying every time he speaks to his wife and children, they urge him to stay.
An eyewitness told Mada Masr that when the Nahda Square sit-in was fully dispersed, pro-Morsi protesters spread out into the gardens and neighborhoods surrounding the area.
Mostafa al-Khatib, media coordinator in Rabea al-Adaweya, had earlier told Mada Masr that the Interior Ministry’s special forces started the attack around 6 am with live fire and tear gas. He said that snipers fired at them from buildings surrounding the sit-in. A Ministry of Interior statement said that only tear-gas was used.
In a statement issued early Wednesday morning, the Ministry of Interior said that it was executing the orders it received from the Cabinet to disperse the sit-ins.
The statement included a section about safe gateways for protestors to exit both sit-ins. The ministry vowed not to pursue any of the protesters except those for whom the prosecutor general has issued arrest warrants.
MENA reported that one police conscript and one officer died and four were injured at Rabea al-Adaweya, and that two conscripts were injured at Nahda Square. State television said that three police personnel were killed.
Mada Masr reporters noted tear gas as well as intense gunfire near the Rabea al-Adaweya sit-in. A front line developed on Nasr Street, near where authorities had created a security cordon. Another large fire broke out at a gas station near the sit-in.
One of the ‘safe exits’ that the Interior Ministry referred to in its statement seems to be at an exit to Tayran Street. Mada Masr observed people moving freely through this point, and blood was spread on the ground, possibly as the injured were moved out of the sit-in. Although people were allowed in, more people were moving out of the sit in.
As CSF soldiers returned from the front lines, residents cheered on the heavily armed troops, calling them “fearless” and “brave.”
Mada Masr also witnessed altercations between Morsi’s supporters and Nasr City residents, with some residents shuttering their windows while others cheered on security forces as they continued the dispersal.