Nightly News   |  August 15, 2013

Violent crackdown in Egypt leads to hundreds of deaths

In the aftermath of this week’s bloodshed, the Egyptian government is cleaning up and trying to justify all the violence. NBC’s Richard Engel reports.

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>> good evening, i'm lester holt sitting in for brian. a day after its deadly crackdown on opposition protesters, egypt 's government today vowed to respond to any retaliation with more deadly force . the effort mated death toll from yesterday's armed assault on two sit-ins has more than doubled since this time last evening, now topping 600. today as families claim the bodies of the dead, members of the muslim brotherhood who want the country's elected president restored to power say they will not be crushed and plan another show of solidarity tomorrow. and that tonight has the u.s. state department warning americans to leave that country immediately. once again, nbc's richard engel is in cairo for us with the very latest on this unfolding crisis. richard?

>> reporter: good evening, lester . even after all that has happen aed, today egyptian security forces officially authorized the use of live fire to protect themselves and, quote, key installations. undeterred, the muslim brotherhood hopes to have a massive demonstration here in downtown cairo tomorrow. egyptian forces loyal to the military were cleaning up today and even celebrating at the site where hundreds of protesters from the muslim brotherhood were gunned down yesterday. some egyptians came out to thank the troops for the crackdown.

>> i support anyone who supported us to get rid of the terrorism we saw in the streets the past year.

>> reporter: the government is trying to justify all the violence and deaths. the foreign ministry today distributed videos to journalists, including this one, allegedly showing protesters with automatic weapons. there is still a lot of cleanup to do, but can egypt just sweep away what many say was a massacre that took place here? the muslim brotherhood lost this battle, but the group is promising more protests, which could mean more scenes like this. and now the brotherhood have martyrs to avenge.

>> we will continue going into the cities.

>> reporter: at the amman mosque, hundreds of bodies were lined up for collection, blocks of ice to keep them cold. the carpet wet, the air filled with freshener to mask the smell. families distraught and overwhelmed. this woman searched for her son. he's 19. her only photo is an old picture from school. she went to the protest yesterday and never came home. he may be here, but some of the bodies are so burned i can't tell, she said. collapsed on a chair, this woman doesn't need to look any further. at her feet, her 27-year-old husband shot in the head, father of their toddler. she has no job or money. i pray to god to give me strength, she said. egypt may have overstepped in its crackdown, but it isn't showing signs of remorse. and tonight, lester , that mosque with the bodies inside was just raided by egyptian police. they disbursed the crowds with tear gas and seized the bodies. lester ?

>> richard engel in cairo. thank