Egypt has declared a month-long state of emergency after nationwide clashes that have killed at least 230 people. The violence erupted after police moved to clear two pro-Morsi camps in Cairo.
A statement from the Egyptian presidency read out on state television Wednesday said a daily curfew in Cairo and 11 other provinces had been imposed because "the security and order of the nation face danger due to deliberate sabotage, and attacks on public and private buildings and the loss of life by extremist groups."
The country's military-appointed interim president, Adly Mansour, "has tasked the armed forces in cooperation with the police, to take all the necessary measures to maintain security and order and to protect public and private property and the lives of citizens."
The curfew is to run from 7:00 p.m. until 6 a.m.
"Whoever violates these orders will be punished with imprisonment," the statement said.
Deadly clashes occurred Wednesday when security forces cleared two protest camps in Cairo where supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi were calling for his reinstatement. Authorities had said for the last two weeks that they were planning to break up the sit-ins.
Riot police descended on the camps with armored vehicles and bulldozers in the capital city, while street battles took place in cities around the country. Police removed protesters from the smaller of the two camps near Cairo University by late Wednesday morning, while clashes continued on into the afternoon at the second camp in the Nasr City district.
Protesters claim police used live ammunition to break up the sit-ins, while authorities insist the security forces used only tear gas and were fired upon by people in the camp. The army did not participate directly in the clashes, but did provide security at the camps.
The sit-ins began in June to show support for Morsi, Egypt's first freely-elected president who was later removed from power in a July 3 coup. More than 250 people, the majority of them Morsi supporters, have been killed in Egypt since the military took temporary control.
The unrest spread to cities around the country. Train service between Egypt's north and south was suspended, while there were reports of protests in the cities Bani Suef and Assiut, to the south of Cairo.
The exact death toll is unknown. Egypt's Health Ministry said 95 people had died and more than 840 were injured, while the United Nations said "it appears that hundreds of people were killed or wounded." The AP news agency reported at least 278 people died in street battles on Wednesday. The state news agency MENA put the figure at 235 people killed across the country.
Two journalists were among those who died. They were television cameraman Mick Deane, worked for Britain's Sky News and Habiba Ahmed Abd Elaziz who reported for the Dubai-based news weekly Xpress.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the bloodshed, saying that "violence and incitement from any side are not the answers to the challenges Egypt faces.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said the
"decisive principle" must be "that the human rights of all Egyptians, independent of their political direction and conviction, have to be respected and protected."
Germany's Foreign Minister Guide Westerwelle said the government was "extremely worried" about the "very dangerous" increase in violence in the country. "We call on all
political forces to return immediately to negotiations and avert an escalation of violence,"he said. "All further bloodshed must be prevented."
US Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the violence and the reinstatement of emergency rule. He called it "deplorable" and urged Egypt's interim leaders to take a step back and calm the situation. "It's a serious blow to reconciliation and the Egyptian people's hopes for a transition towards democracy and inclusion," he told reporters.
"This is a pivotal moment for all Egyptians," Kerry said. "The path toward violence leads only to greater instability, economic disaster and suffering."
dr/kms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)