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Chaos in Egypt: Interim vice president resigns after 235 killed

Mohamed Mustafa El Baradei stepped down Wednesday following deadly confrontations between the military government and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi.
/ Source: hardball

Mohamed Mustafa El Baradei stepped down Wednesday following deadly confrontations between the military government and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi.

Updated: 5:47 p.m.

Egypt’s interim vice president, Mohamed Mustafa El Baradei, resigned Wednesday after the military government in Egypt declared a month-long state of emergency following security forces storming protest camps of those loyal to ousted President Mohamed Morsi.

Health officials say at least 235 people have been killed and 2,001 have been injured. The number is expected to rise in the coming hours, according to officials.

The explosion of deadly confrontations comes after a six-week stand-off between Morsi’s supporters and the military-backed government that has replaced him.

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the violent crackdown Wednesday, saying the “deplorable” actions run counter to “Egypt’s aspirations for peace, inclusion, and genuine democracy.”

“Violence is simply not a solution in Egypt or anywhere else,” Kerry said. “Violence will not create a roadmap for Egypt’s future.  Violence only impedes the transition to an inclusive civilian government, a government chosen in free and fair elections that governs democratically, consistent with the goals of the Egyptian revolution.  And violence and continued political polarization will only further tear the Egyptian economy apart and prevent it from growing and providing the jobs and the future that the people of Egypt want so badly.”

An Egypt security source told NBC News that 543 people have been arrested in the ongoing operations to clear the two camps, one outside the eastern Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in northeast Cario and another in the city’s Nahda Square. Among those arrested NBC News reported were eight Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including Essam el Erian, Safwat el Hegazy, and Mohammed Beltagy. Beltagy’s 17-year-old daughter, Asmaa Beltagy, was among those killed earlier Wednesday.

NBC News foreign correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin told MSNBC from Cairo that there is a “huge discrepancy” on the death toll, and the number could be much higher because not all of the bodies have been cleared from the two squares. He also said the military government has begun to impose curfews  in various parts of the capital.

The bloodshed began when Egyptian security forces moved to clear the camps on Wednesday morning with armored vehicles, bulldozers, and teargas. According to Reuters, pro-Morsi demonstrators were also seen throwing stones and Molotv cocktails at the troops.

Mick Deane, a Sky News cameraman, was also shot and killed while covering the violence in Cairo, according to the broadcaster. At least eight leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood have been arrested after police took over Rabaa Square, security sources told NBC News.

The sit-in camps were created after the July 3 ouster of Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president—just 12 months into his four-year term as president.

A White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, said in a statement Wednesday that, “The United States strongly condemns the use of violence against protesters in Egypt.” Earnest added that the violence complicates Egypt’s efforts at reconciliation following the ouster of Morsi.

“We also strongly oppose a return to a state-of-emergency law and call on the government to respect basic human rights such as freedom of peaceful assembly and due process under the law.  The world is watching what is happening in Cairo.  We urge the government of Egypt and all parties in Egypt to refrain from violence and resolve their differences peacefully.”

Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated that the U.S. is strongly against a return to a state of emergency law and called the violence “deplorable” at an afternoon briefing. He added the bloodshed runs “counter to the Egyptians aspirations for peace” and urged those in the country to find a political solution instead of going down “the path towards violence.”

After Morsi was deposed, the Obama Administration said it would not suspend the flow of U.S. aid to the new, military-backed government. Spokesman Jay Carney said it was a “complex and difficult issue with significant consequences.” The United States provides approximately $1.5 billion in aid each year to Egypt, which—after Israel—is the second largest receiver of American aid.

The U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon also strongly condemned the violence, saying through his spokesperson that “in the aftermath of today’s violence, the secretary-general urges all Egyptians to concentrate their efforts on promoting genuinely inclusive reconciliation.”

He added, “While recognizing that political clocks do not run backwards, the secretary-general also believes firmly that violence and incitement from any side are not the answers to the challenges Egypt faces,” he said.