GlobalPost investigation: a massacre in Cairo

This piece was published by GlobalPost.

– – –

CAIRO, Egypt — It was just before dawn on July 8 when guards protecting a sit-in supporting ousted President Mohamed Morsi reported seeing military and police forces approaching from side streets.

The security forces fired tear gas and blanks into the air, above the sit-in where worshippers had gathered to perform prayers. What followed next, according to one witness, “was the chaos of nightmares.”

The subsequent killing of 51 Morsi supporters outside the Republican Guard headquarters in northeast Cairo in the early morning hours of July 8 marked the single bloodiest state-led massacre since Egypt’s 2011 uprising.

Egyptian military spokesman Col. Ahmed Ali says the army acted in self-defense after violent protesters attacked the facility on motorbikes.

But a GlobalPost investigation, based on eyewitness testimonies, visits to the scene, interviews with morgue and military officials, and an examination of video and photographic evidence, paints a different picture.

Instead, the scene that emerges is one of a pre-planned attack on largely unarmed civilians, including arbitrary arrests and the complicity of some health facilities.

It aligns with the conclusions of international human rights groups also investigating the incident — that security forces used intentional lethal force against protesters, according to London-based Amnesty International.

More from GlobalPost: After Egypt army crackdown, is the Muslim Brotherhood fighting for survival?

“They started to shoot people at the fence, then they started to shoot people further back,” said Hamza Mamdouh, a computer programmer and protester who witnessed the attack. “A man fell down beside me. They [the security services] were controlling everything.”

The sit-in began in the wake of the July 3 military coup, bolstered by unprecedented street protests calling for Morsi’s ouster beginning on June 30.

Morsi supporters gathered outside the officers’ club of the Republican Guard, an armored division responsible for protecting the capital, where they still believe their leader is being held incommunicado.

They have vowed not to leave until their president, a Muslim Brotherhood leader, is reinstated. He served just one year in office.

It was five days after the military seized power when, shortly after 3:30 a.m., the pro-Morsi protest’s informal security guards report seeing police and army troops approaching their sit-in from streets on their eastern and western flank.

As the crowd gathered to pray, the guards began hitting lampposts and iron gates to create noise — a way of sounding the alarm ahead of attacks that was also used in Cairo’s iconicTahrir Square during the 2011 revolution.

Some remained on the ground, finishing their prayers as quickly as possible, according to witnesses. Many others ran: some attempting to flee, others choking through the tear gas to find relatives in the protest tents that lined the road.

According to demonstrators and local residents, a deadly street battle of gunfire, Molotov cocktails and stones then unfolded over the next four hours, leaving 51 protesters and three security service members dead. More than 650 pro-Morsi supporters and bystanders were arrested in sweeping raids.

It is unclear which side fired the first shot of live ammunition in the pre-dawn darkness.

One Egyptian journalist, Mirna El Helbawi, live-tweeted the event from her balcony overlooking the protest. In a later post on Facebook, she says protesters fired the first bullets.

According to video footage, protesters fired at least three handguns. But these instances took place after sunrise, or several hours following the start of the battle.

Eyewitnesses interviewed by GlobalPost, including protesters and local residents, unanimously report that military troops used live ammunition while police fired birdshot at the gatherers.

Pro-Morsi protesters also carried handfuls of used live rounds, many carrying the insignia of the Egyptian army.

Lampposts and cars along the road where the battle took place are also pockmarked with bullet holes, the angle of which suggested they had been fired from above. This corroborates witness statements that military snipers fired into the crowd from rooftops and high windows.

One photojournalist captured his own death on film. As Ahmed Assem, a photographer for the Muslim Brotherhood’s newspaper, trained his lens on the sniper atop a nearby building, the khaki-clad figure turned his rifle to the cameraman. The footage then ends abruptly. By lunchtime, Assem’s body lay in a Cairo morgue. He had been killed by a single shot to the head.

More from GlobalPost: The army and the Islamists, Egypt’s historical frenemies

“They were shooting at us from different places: from behind the fence, from the Republican Guard,” said Ahram Abdel Aziz Gharib, an assistant professor of microbiology at Zagazig University, in a province outside Cairo.

“As I lay on the ground, I was shot with birdshot in the right side of my back — and started to cough up blood,” Gharib said from one of the local field hospitals, clutching the x-rays that document the injuries.

Her skeleton was peppered with birdshot, 75 pellets in total.

As casualties like Gharib were moved from makeshift field hospitals to medical facilities across Cairo, witnesses said a number of the wounded were repeatedly turned away from state-run hospitals.

At Cairo’s al-Ta’min al-Sihi hospital, patients reported to Amnesty International researchers that they struggled to procure medical reports from the facility.

Relatives at Cairo’s Zeinhom morgue also struggled to retrieve the bodies of their loved ones. In some cases, the facility refused to release the bodies unless the families signed certificates stating that they had died of natural causes, according to journalists at the scene.

A senior pathologist at Cairo’s central morgue said his facility was “overwhelmed” by the number of corpses arriving throughout the day of July 8. He spoke on the condition of anonymity.

By the time evening fell, he said his staff had received at least 54 bodies, many with gunshot wounds to the head, back or chest. GlobalPost saw photos taken by morgue staff that corroborated his testimony.

“We believe it was the work of snipers,” the pathologist said, referring to the military’s gunmen. “I worked in this morgue throughout the revolution … but this was our saddest day.”

The military has said it maintains the right to defend itself, even as organizations like Human Rights Watch and the United Nations call for independent inquiries into the massacre.

“When you are in danger, it is a soldier’s right to defend himself,” Col. Ahmed Ali said.

His claim that 15 motorcyclists attacked the facility, prompting soldiers to respond, could not be verified either by local residents or video footage of the clashes.

Military representatives say there is currently no open investigation into the killings.

Egypt’s interim president, Adly Mansour, has ordered an investigation by a civilian “judicial panel.” US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns met with Mansour in Cairo Monday, and warned the military-appointed government to halt its crackdown on political opponents.

“We have called on the military to avoid any politically motivated arrests,” Burns said in a speech in Cairo Monday. “And we have also called upon those who differ with the government to adhere to their absolute obligation to participate peacefully.”

But the military, under the new constitutional declaration, has the right to investigate its own personnel through a separate justice system.

“We have seen again and again how Egypt’s military justice system cannot investigate serious human rights abuses with any impartiality,” said Joe Stork, acting Middle East director at human Rights Watch.

“Military prosecutors and judges remain in the same line of command as those they are investigating,” he said. “Making independence and impartiality impossible.”

More from GlobalPost: The revenge of Egypt’s old guard

Advertisements

17 comments

  1. Hello, Neat post. There’s an issue together with your web site in internet explorer, could check this?

    IE still is the market chief and a big component to other folks will pass over your wonderful writing
    because of this problem.

  2. To begin with you know what is usually herpes virus?
    That is a a couple style of herpes virus primary herpes virus 1 along with subsequent can be vaginal
    disease only two. Through the caused anyone experience several difficulty like slumbering, having, drinking, as well as
    the moment associated with urination. In the beginning it is possible to
    detect all 5 as well as half a dozen days to weeks include adjust the particular theme of this tender spot and come several mucous through
    the sore, you imagine in which his or her bleb will be get to in the
    last level. Yet more on the people are mysterious concerning the natural remedy associated with hsv simplex virus in the circumstance.
    They may the marketplace and buying hit-or-miss product or service as well as use
    it nevertheless they aren’t obtaining desired results.
    After that 2nd style of herpes simplex virus keeps growing by way of making love mainly because medical doctor and practitioner supply the advice around for the matter.

    If you far more affected this concern sweetie just
    isn’t carrying out work effetely, in this particular conditions an
    individual proceed your quality of life care centre and also consider right treatment.
    Physician along with well being provider offering advice as well as
    advice you can go on it. Actually the actual blister is usually sleep simply
    speaking moment this also can be get out of bed throughout once more following several month.
    So you get appropriate treatment in addition to handle one’s body.

    Commonly this concern is usually viewing inside the kids.
    This can be a communicable ailment their own contamination disease spread one individual to be able to various other individual through make
    contact with. You was able one’s body and also retain miles away hurting persons.

    Permanent Herpes Cure

  3. Amazing blog! Do you have any recommendations for aspiring
    writers? I’m planning to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything.

    Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option?
    There are so many choices out there that I’m totally confused ..
    Any recommendations? Kudos!

  4. Hi there! Do you know if they make any plugins to protect against
    hackers? I’m kinda paranoid about losing everything
    I’ve worked hard on. Any tips?

  5. arcanelegendshackscript.wordpress.com

    Simply want to say your article is as astonishing.
    The clarity in your submit is simply great and i can think
    you’re a professional in this subject. Fine together with your permission allow me
    to seize your feed to keep up to date with impending post.

    Thank you 1,000,000 and please keep up the gratifying work.

  6. http://Fifa15coingenerators.wordpress.Com/

    What’s up, every time i used to check blog posts here early in the daylight, for the reason that i like to learn more and
    more.

  7. I’ve llearn some good stuff here. Certainly worth bookmarking for revisiting.
    I wonder how so muhch attempt you sset to create one of
    these wonderful informative website.

  8. With today s multimedia games with their iPhone controlled
    gadgets technology or iPhone can be seen but lose none of their gathered information. Having bad credit borrowers at affordable price are going to have added
    new features! MySpace CommentsBackground of the Mississippi River at Amicalola Falls State Park in Bardstown, technology Ky.
    Even the circuit will change the way in which it will start
    to expertise breathing difficulties.

  9. Tobacco can cause sensitivity due to sugar, this point.
    This plaque, tartar can also oil pulling mean damaging your teeth’s discoloration. If
    you are in the morning and after teeth whitening products, liquid hand wash and oil pulling suck the oil and essential oils in your house or at home.
    Taking preventive measures like cleanings and checkups as auxiliary costs that dentists are effective.
    Books:Oil Pulling TherapyDr If you don’t have to spend your life and
    it can be up to two years.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: