Aug 14, 2013 8:01 AM
CAIRO – Egypt’s capital descended into a chaotic bloodbath Wednesday after security forces moved in on protest camps set up by supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi, sparking deadly violence.
A month-long nationwide state of emergency was declared as the interim government tried to maintain order.
At least 95 people were killed and 874 injured, the country’s health ministry said, as unrest spread to other parts of the country.
Witness reports and pro-Morsi volunteers at the camp put the toll much higher, but the none of the higher figures could be immediately confirmed by NBC News.
Unverified pictures posted to social media showed dozens of bodies after tear gas and gunfire engulfed protest camps at Rabaa and Nahda in Cairo.
The U.S. Embassy was closed, the country’s stock exchange suspended and train services halted.
Among the dead were Asmaa Beltagy - the 17-year-old daughter of Mohammed Beltagy, one of the Muslim Brotherhood's top leaders - and two foreign media journalists.
American nationals were among 543 people arrested during the camp clearances, security sources said. Hundreds of weapons were confiscated.
Outside Cairo, two churches were attacked and set on fire in Dermous, while an air force colonel and a military conscript were killed in an attack on a highway, security sources said.
Pro-Morsi protesters were seen throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at troops, Reuters reported. Security sources said six police officers were killed and 12 injured during the operation.
A Reuters reporter said he saw about 20 protesters who had been shot in the legs by soldiers.
Eyewitness Ahshur Abid told Reuters he saw a least 15 bodies at a field hospital besides the sprawling Rabaa camp.
"It is nasty inside, they are destroying our tents. We can't breathe inside and many people are in hospital," volunteer Murad Ahmed told a Reuters correspondent at the camp, where Muslim Brotherhood officials had positioned sandbags in anticipation of a police raid.
Witnesses said protesters appeared to have commandeered a public bus and driven it to front line to act as a barrier.
The interior ministry said 50 arrests were made at Rabaa, which is in the Nasr City district, and 150 at Nahda, which is near Cairo University in the Giza district.
The ministry said only tear gas had been used to clear the camps.
State television said weapons and ammunition were found in tents at the Nahda camp and that armed protesters were in nearby Cairo Zoo firing at police. An explosion was followed by fire at the zoo gate, it said.
Turkey’s prime minister called on the United Nations Security Council to help, describing Wednesday's events as a “massacre.”
"The international community, especially the U.N. Security Council and Arab League, must act immediately to stop this massacre," Tayyip Erdogan's office said in a statement.
The sit-in camps were formed in protest at the military-backed July 3 ouster of democratically elected Morsi.
More than 300 people have already died in political violence since the army deposed Morsi exactly 12 months into his four-year term as president.
On Tuesday, police fired tear gas at Morsi supporters who marched on the country's Ministry of Religious Endowment.