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Grief and Disbelief After Crackdown Chaos in Egypt

August 15, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The official toll in Wednesday’s crackdown in Egypt rose sharply today to 638 dead and some 4,000 hurt. Supporters of the former President Mohammed Morsi claimed that casualties were far higher, and they vowed not to give in.

Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News reports from Cairo.

And a warning: Some of the images in his story are graphic.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: In a mosque in eastern Cairo, grief and disbelief, after Egypt’s government killed hundreds of its own people on a single day.

The Iman mosque is full of bodies. We reckoned around 200, though in this chaos, it was hard to tell, the dead and the living jostling for space. One coffin was being used as an ice bucket to keep the bodies cool, but in the heat of a Cairo summer, the ice kept running low.

They are trying to keep the place clean, but a religious sanctuary has become a morgue. This doctor told me most had been shot in the chest or head. Many were badly burned.

Scores of bodies are still in this mosque because they haven’t been claimed by their relatives, sometimes because they’re too badly burned to be recognized. The word massacre does seem to fit the picture here.

Egypt’s own Health Ministry now admits that over 200 people died near here yesterday. But the government blames the protesters.

MAN: We will continue to going to the streets peacefully until they kill us all. This is our message for them. We will not carry guns. We will always be peaceful. And we will die. That’s it, because yesterday what happened — today, you can see here there are people are burned alive, not alive, but people are burned. You cannot even recognize them. their relatives can’t recognize them. How the hell they did this?

JONATHAN RUGMAN: In Giza, though, there was violence. State televisions said hundreds of supporters of Egypt’s ousted president had stormed and torched local government buildings this afternoon.

And the Interior Ministry has been honoring its dead, 43 policemen reported killed yesterday in the pursuit of security and safety, the ministry said, Egypt ratcheting up its martyrs on both sides of its bitter divide.

This is where most of those dead protesters we filmed were killed. The government assault against them lasted over 12 hours. Their sprawling six-week-old tent city was burned to the ground, regardless of what the rest of the world thinks.

Tomorrow thousands of Egyptian were camped out here yesterday, until police snipers and bulldozers moved in, a scorched-earth policy that’s put the army back in control — hundreds of abandoned shoes evidence perhaps of a terrifyingly fast retreat. These streets are now being cleared at breakneck speed.

And Egyptian tourists are taking photographs of a crime scene they are delighted to see erased.

“I’m happy the protesters have gone,” this woman told me. “They are terrorists, and I hope they stay away from here forever. They are not good for Egypt.”

Behind her and gutted by fire, the mosque from where the Muslim Brotherhood hoped to engineer a second Arab spring which would see its toppled leader reinstated. But a short drive away, the Brotherhood’s anger still boils. “Egypt will stay Islamic,” they chant. “We have God on our side.”

Yesterday, they were shot in their hundreds. But their demands for justice have not died with them.