CAIRO: Egypt declared a month-long state of emergency Wednesday as violence raged across the country following a crackdown on supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi.
The nationwide state of emergency will begin at 4:00 pm, the presidency said in a statement read out on state television.
Egypt's health ministry said on Wednesday that 149 people had been killed on Wednesday in a police raid on supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi at a Cairo protest camp and clashes nationwide.
“The dead are both from police and civilians. We are waiting to get more details,” said the ministry's spokesman, Hamdi Abdel Karim, adding that 1,403 people had been wounded.
Egyptian vice president, Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, announced his resignation in a letter to the interim president to protest the deadly police assaults.
The teenage daughter of a senior Muslim Brotherhood leader was also reportedly killed Wednesday during a police crack down on a Cairo camp set up by supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi.
Seventeen-year-old Asmaa al-Beltagui, daughter of wanted Brotherhood leader Mohammed al-Beltagui, was killed in clashes at the Rabaa al-Adawiya protest camp, Brotherhood spokesman Gehad al-Haddad said.
A spokeswoman for the main pro-Morsi coalition, the Anti-Coup Alliance, told AFP the girl had been shot twice, once in the chest and once in the back.
Earlier on Wednesday, Security forces backed by bulldozers moved in on two huge protest camps set up in Cairo by supporters of Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi, launching a long-threatened crackdown that left dozens dead.
The operation began shortly after dawn when security forces surrounded the sprawling Rabaa al-Adawiya camp in east Cairo and a similar one at Al-Nahda square, in the centre of the capital.
Witnesses and an AFP correspondent said police rained canisters of tear gas down onto tents before entering Rabaa al-Adawiya, sparking pandemonium among the thousands of protesters who set up the camp soon after Morsi was ousted by the army on July 3.
Men in gas masks rushed to grab each canister and dunk them in containers of water.
Clashes quickly erupted between protesters and security forces on one side of the camp, as automatic fire could be heard. It was not immediately clear who was doing the shooting.
Television footage showed injured people being carried to a makeshift medical centre as well as police dragging away protesters, who have defied numerous ultimatums to end their demonstrations.
Protest leaders wearing gas masks stood defiantly on a stage while crowds of people wearing face masks stood amid the swirling tear gas as bulldozers began dismantling the camp.
Egypt's interior ministry mid-morning said security forces have “total control” over Al-Nahda Square, the smaller of the two camps.
“Police forces have managed to remove most of the tents in the square,” the ministry said.
A security official told AFP that dozens of Morsi supporters had been arrested with the help of residents of the area.
Television footage showed protesters who had been rounded up sitting in the ground handcuffed and surrounded by security forces.
Families, with their children, carrying plastic bags were seen being escorted out of the square by police.
Railway authorities announced that all trains had been grounded to prevent protesters from moving outside of Cairo and reassembling.
Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood urged Egyptians to take to the streets in their thousands to denounce the “massacre”.
“This is not an attempt to disperse, but a bloody attempt to crush all voices of opposition to the military coup,” Brotherhood spokesman Gehad al-Haddad said on Twitter.
The Rabaa al-Adawiya protest camp, where several Brotherhood leaders are staying, “is calling on Egyptians to take to the streets to stop the massacre”, Haddad said.
In a separate tweet, Haddad said at least 250 people were killed and over 5,000 injured in the crackdown. There was no immediate independent confirmation of the tolls.
An AFP correspondent counted 43 bodies at a makeshift morgue at Rabaa al-Adawiya, adding that many appeared to have died from gunshot wounds.
There were no women or children among the dead, the correspondent said.
Police barred journalists not already in the camp from entering.
Egypt's interior ministry said two members of the security forces were killed in the operation.
The crackdown came just hours after the United States urged the military-backed interim government to allow Morsi supporters to protest freely.
State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said Washington regarded freedom to protest as a “key part” of the democratic process but would be concerned by reports of violence.
The United States, which provides $1.5 billion in mostly military aid to Egypt every year, maintains close ties to the Egyptian military but says it favours a rapid return to elected civilian rule.
Morsi, Egypt's first elected president, was overthrown by the military on July 3.
His supporters had said nothing short of his reinstatement would persuade them to disperse.
Clashes between pro- and anti-Morsi demonstrators and security forces have killed more than 250 people since the end of June.
On Monday, the judiciary extended Morsi's detention for a further 15 days pending an investigation into his collaboration with Palestinian group Hamas.
The Muslim Brotherhood, banned in 1954 and repressed by successive governments, won both parliamentary and presidential elections in 2011 after the ouster of veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak.
Prosecutors have set an August 25 date for the trial of the Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie and his two deputies.
Crackdown sparks global outrage
Egypt's bloody crackdown on supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi triggered widespread condemnation as the international community reacted with alarm to what some termed a “massacre”.
The United Nations, the United States, Britain, Iran, Qatar and Turkey strongly denounced the use of force by the military-backed interim government to clear two protest camps in Cairo.
The action, which was followed by the declaration of a month-long state of emergency, has resulted in at least 124 deaths, according to AFP reporters at the scene, while the UN said the death toll could run into the hundreds.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who had urged both sides to exercise restraint, expressed regret that “Egyptian authorities chose instead to use force to respond to the ongoing demonstrations,” according to a statement issued by his spokesman.
The United States, which had offered qualified backing to the interim government, “strongly condemns” the violence against protesters and urges the military to show restraint, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was deeply concerned at the escalating violence and unrest.
“I condemn the use of force in clearing protests and call on the security forces to act with restraint,” Hague said.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tweeted: “Main responsibility with regime forces. Extremely hard to restore political process.”Qatar, a main backer of the pro-Morsi Muslim Brotherhood, issued a similar message.
“Qatar strongly denounces the means by which peaceful protesters in Rabaa al-Adawiya camp and Al-Nahda square have been dealt with and which led to the killing of several unarmed innocent people among them,” a foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement published on the official QNA agency.
Turkey, which had developed strong ties with Morsi's government, urged the international community to act immediately over what it said was an “unacceptable” response to the protests.
“The international community, particularly the UN Security Council and Arab League, must act immediately to stop this massacre,” the prime minister's office said in a statement.
Iran also termed the crackdown a “massacre”.
“Iran is following the bitter events in Egypt closely, disapproves of the violent actions, condemns the massacre of the population and warns of the serious consequences,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
France, Germany and Italy refrained from apportioning blame for the crisis, calling for calm from both sides.
“It is essential that this violence cease and that a sense of calm prevails,” a French foreign ministry statement said.
Italian foreign minister Emma Bonino said she was profoundly saddened by events in Egypt.
“I ask all those involved in Egypt to do everything in their power to put an immediate stop to the violence and avoid a bloodbath. The armed forces must exercise the utmost self-control and everyone must avoid any incitement to violence.”
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said: “We call on all political forces to return immediately to negotiations and avert an escalation of violence.
“All further bloodshed must be prevented.”The European Union also appealed for restraint, with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton's spokesman saying: “Confrontation and violence are not the way forward.”