Egypt 1st-Hand: “One-Sided, Unwarranted Assault by Police Accompanied by Armed Civilians”

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Photojournalist Mosa’ab Elshamy was one of the first witnesses from Cairo to report about slain protesters, killed by police early Saturday morning in a confrontation with supporters of former President Morsi.

On his Facebook page, Elshamy posts a series of images, accompanied by his testimony. He cautions that he “couldn’t tell what had sparked the violence” and continues:

At 3.45 a.m I found my way through the mass of bodies and cameras in the hospital, it was becoming clear how the situation had worsened in just a few minutes. A doctor told me eight had been killed, and over 500 injured. They tried to clear beds for the incoming victims but soon ran out of space and had to use another room. Over the next hour I saw at least thirty cases of live-bullet injuries in the chest, leg and head. Few of them made it….

As the sun rose over Raba’a [the site of the main pro-Morsi sit-in], it felt safer to head to the front-lines. I headed there at 6 a.m, and noticed Morsi supporters had set three lines of defense with brick walls. They crouched behind these walls as the bullets flew. In the time that I spent in Raba’a, I saw that Morsi supporters were unarmed, except with rocks and fireworks, in addition to the occasional tear gas canister they would throw back at the police where it came from. I feel compelled, however, not to doubt the possibility of them being armed earlier at night when things were more vicious and chaotic, making observing things more difficult.

Injuries at the front lines were regular. Almost every couple of minutes, a man fell. Nasr Street is a very wide street, making it impossible to know where the bullets would come from. The shooting was indiscriminate and the police showed little, if any, self restraint. I saw a man get shot in the back of his head and drop dead, immediately, on the pavement he was standing on. He wasn’t even close to the frontlines. It was frightening.

The police, I noticed, were accompanied by armed civilians on their side. These civilians seemed like a mix of residents, who I saw when I was at the police cordon at the start of the night, as well as what appeared to be paid thugs. Both the civilians and police fired at Morsi supporters while I was there. Helpless, Morsi supporters mostly just took cover, threw rocks and fireworks at the police before one was shot and carried away. This image repeatedly itself countless times.

As for the military, I saw that they took no part in the assault. Their only involvement was very briefly, when the soldiers as the Sadat Memorial shot fire in the air and managed to distance the two sides, before they resumed again.

His conclusion:

[This] was clearly a one-sided, unwarranted assault by the police accompanied by armed civilians with complacency by the military which did little to stop the blood spill. The horrors of last night, like that of the Republican Guard massacre and many nights before are going to, for a long time, tear apart and haunt this nation – which day after another is losing its humanity and turning into monsters. On a personal level, I can’t but be concerned over the normality I felt working around blood and corpses. It all seemed so casual and my detachment was eerie. I realized I have, like many, lost a big chunk of humanity along the way of this self-destructive revolution.

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  1. Egypt: ‘The injuries were very precise … the snipers were shooting to kill’
    Patrick Kingsley, The Observer
    The crush of dead and injured in the field hospitals was so intense that exhausted doctors struggled to cope. By early Saturday afternoon, there were so many corpses arriving at Cairo’s Zeinhom mortuary that the street outside was blocked with a queue of orange ambulances…. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/28/egypt-injuries-snipers

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