July 9, 2013 – Army Kills 51, Deepening Crisis in Egypt: The mass shooting of Islamist protesters by security forces on Monday at a sit-in for Mohamed Morsi, the ousted president, injected new outrage into the standoff over his removal by Egypt’s top generals, darkening hopes that they might reconcile the polarizing forces that have torn at the fabric of the country. Pictured above, wounded supporters of Mr. Morsi were treated in a makeshift hospital. At least 51 civilian demonstrators were killed and more than 400 were wounded, almost all of them by gunfire, health officials said.
It was by far the deadliest day of violence since the revolt that overthrew former President Hosni Mubarak in early 2011. Within a few hours around dawn, advancing soldiers and police officers killed at least 51 civilians and wounded more than 400, almost all hit by gunfire, health officials said.
Army and police spokesmen said that one soldier and two policemen had also been killed. But according to witnesses and video footage, one of the policemen appeared to have been shot by soldiers, and the military provided little evidence to back its claim that the fighting had been instigated by the Islamists.
The scale and nature of the killings drove a deeper wedge between Mr. Morsi’s Islamist backers and their opponents, and diminished the chances that his allies in the Muslim Brotherhood might soon be coaxed back into a political process that they deem illegitimate after the military overthrew the elected president.
At the same time, the bloodshed sharpened a fierce debate about whether the new military-led interim government that replaced Mr. Morsi last week was moving toward a democracy or away from it. Two and a half years after the overthrow of Mr. Mubarak, the institutions, tactics and dynamics of the decades-old secular-authoritarian government seemed, at least for the moment, to snap back into place.
Some who vehemently denounced Mr. Mubarak’s use of brute force to silence critics were far more tepid about criticizing the killings of Mr. Morsi’s supporters, calling only for an inquiry to determine the root cause. The United States, which has conspicuously not condemned Mr. Morsi’s ouster, was also mild, calling on security forces to exercise restraint.
By contrast, Essam el-Erian, a senior Brotherhood leader, called the killings “an outright massacre” by “a fascist coup government.”
Leaders of the Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest Islamist group and best-organized political force, said the generals had now shown their authoritarian colors, using lethal weapons to crush dissent while holding the freely elected president captive. They called for a national “uprising” against the return of a military dictatorship.
Al Nour, the only Islamist party that had backed the military’s takeover, suspended its participation in the interim government, accelerating the disintegration of Egyptian politics toward a culture war between Islamists and their foes.
The armed forces, on the other hand, claimed that Mr. Morsi’s supporters had attacked them first with rocks, gunfire and army-issued tear gas bombs, though dozens of witnesses — including some of Mr. Morsi’s opponents — disputed that account.
At a news conference, Ahmed Ali, a military spokesman, said the security forces had responded with rubber bullets and gas bombs after coming under attack by heavy gunfire. He addressed a pointed question about human rights to Western critics: “What human rights are there for an armed person who terrorizes citizens and attacks military establishments?”
The police, who had never fully accepted Mr. Morsi’s authority, reveled in the day and sought to revise history: a spokesman contended that the Muslim Brotherhood — and not the police — had been responsible for killing protesters during the revolt against Mr. Mubarak. “Policemen never thought that history would speak so quickly to prove the complete innocence of the policemen in the events of the January 2011 revolution,” said the spokesman, Hany Abdel Lateef.
At the Nasr City hospital, a few minutes’ drive from the initial shooting, Dr. Bassem al-Sayed, a surgeon, said he had seen a similar scene only once before, around Jan. 25, 2011, when Egyptians began their revolt against President Mubarak. “This is worse,” he said.
At a news conference, the military spokesman showed video footage of handguns, tear gas grenades and bottles of whiskey he said the soldiers had found in the Islamists’ tents.
As the conference began, a crowd of Egyptian journalists demanded that a television crew from Al Jazeera leave. Most Egyptian journalists in both the state and private media believe that Al Jazeera, the pan-Arab network owned by the government of Qatar, sympathizes with the Muslim Brotherhood.
“We are in Egypt, the country of democracy,” Mr. Abdel Lateef, the police spokesman, said to raucous cheers as the crew left.
Mr. Ali, the military spokesman, raised alarms about the Arab Spring itself — heresy here just a few months ago.
He called Islamist charges the military had massacred demonstrators a new kind of “information warfare” that “runs through the Middle East region and we see since the breaking of the Arab Spring revolutions.”
“They’re all wars against the state by its own citizens,” he said, “and the main weapon in these wars is the circulation of strife, rumors and lies.” (Credits – David D. Kirkpatrick and Kareem Fahim for the New York Times).
The Master of Disaster