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Violent security force action against Morsi supporters prompts international concern

The international community has called for calm in Egypt after security forces sought to clear two protest camps for supporters of ousted President Morsi. It's not clear how many have died in the Cairo clashes.

The European Union said Wednesday that reports of protesters being killed during a crackdown on pro-Morsi camps in Cairo were “extremely worrying.”

Michael Mann, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said, "We reiterate that violence won't lead to any solution and we urge the Egyptian authorities to proceed with utmost restraint."

The head of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, said the reported casualties were "not acceptable."

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Egypt: pro-Morsi camps being cleared

He called on the authorities "to ensure that all Egyptian people, regardless of their political views, are allowed to demonstrate peacefully."

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who is currently in Tunisia, urged both sides that, "All further bloodshed must be prevented."

Calling it a "very dangerous situation," Westerwelle said Germany had conveyed this "clear expectation to the Egyptian side" directly.

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague also commented on the situation in a statement. "I condemn the use of force in clearing protests and call on the security forces to act with restraint."

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the crackdown on protesters a "massacre."

"The international community, especially the UN Security Council and Arab League, must act immediately to stop this massacre," Erdogan's office said in a statement.

Qatar, a main backer of the pro-Morsi Muslim Brotherhood, also denounced the violence.

Iran's foreign ministry also released a statement, carried by the Fars news agency, disapproving of the violence and warned of "the serious consequences."

The violence erupted after security forces moved in early Wednesday to clear two large pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo. Authorities had said for about two weeks that they intended to clear the protest sites.

Police reportedly used tear gas at both sites, the largest one outside the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque.

Egyptian state television reported that Al-Nahda Square, the smaller of the two protest camps, was completely cleared by the mid-morning on Wednesday. The interior ministry also said the square was "totally under control" and that "police forces have managed to remove most of the tents in the square."

Protesters who support the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt's first democratically-elected president had begun to convert the camps into more permanent facilities. They even set up sand bags and other reinforcements at some points of entry to secure the location.

Death tolls unverified

There has been no independent confirmation of death tolls. State-run MENA news agency, citing a health official, reported that 13 people, including five policemen, were killed in the clashes in Cairo.

Meanwhile, the AFP news agency reported that one of their correspondents counted at least 124 bodies in makeshift morgues in the Rabaah al-Adawiya camp.

Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Gehad al-Haddad, however, claimed a much higher death count. On his Twitter account he wrote “death toll now estimated at 600, bodies still coming, no end in sight. God save Egypt.” This estimation came after he tweeted an hour earlier that there were more than 250 “confirmed deaths,” and over 5,000 wounded. He has called for supporters to take to the streets to protest what he called a massacre. None of these claims were immediately verifiable.

There have also been several reports that leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood have been arrested.

"We have arrested a number of Brotherhood leaders but it's too early to announce their names," General Abdel Fattah Othman, a senior official in the Interior Ministry, told the privately-owned CBC TV channel.

Continued unrest

Morsi was removed from power by the military on June 3; the army set this date as a deadline for the president to appease his opponents or face removal. The military was responding to large-scale public protests against Morsi - centered around Cairo's Tahrir Square and timed to coincide with the one-year anniversary of Morsi taking up office.

More than 250 people, the majority of them Morsi supporters, have been killed in Egypt since the military took temporary control.

hc/msh (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)

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