AlterNet: The Guardian, By Patrick Kingsley, Egyptian PM Defends Crackdown as Death Toll Rises, More than 525 Dead!
Egypt's interim government and its backers remain defiant amid a rising death toll and widespread international condemnation of Wednesday's massacre of Islamist supporters of the ousted president Mohamed Morsi, the country's third mass killing in six weeks. The prime minister, Hazem Beblawi, said the crackdown was essential to create stability, and praised security forces for what he characterised as maximum restraint, despite Egypt's health ministry on Thursday saying 525 had died in the violence that ensued when pro-Morsi camps on either side of Cairo were cleared. "Egypt cannot move forward, especially economically, in the absence of security," Beblawi said in a televised statement. In 2011 Beblawi resigned from a previous government after a massacre of Coptic Christians. The interior minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, said the protesters had "threatened national security, incited violence and tortured and killed people". Protesters at both camps had been largely peaceful. The vice-president, Mohamed ElBaradei, appointed last month in an attempt to give the new military regime a respectable face, resigned in protest ay Wednesday's events. But in an indication that public sentiment remains strongly behind the military, even the liberal coalition he once led, the National Salvation Front, distanced itself from his decision and saluted the police's actions. A television host later called for ElBaradei to be placed under house arrest. Dissenting voices were few and far between. But Egypt's Revolutionary Socialists, active during the 2011 uprising against the Mubarak regime, said the day's events were counter-revolutionary, "part of a plan to liquidate the Egyptian revolution and restore the military police state of Mubarak regime". The first night of a dusk-till-dawn curfew, enacted under Mubarak-era laws, achieved mixed results. The usually bustling streets of central Cairo were largely empty on Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Military roadblocks restricted access between parts of the city. Elsewhere Islamists vowed to defy the curfew, and there were reports of clashes outside the finance ministry and other parts of Cairo. Fighting spread to several provinces. On Wednesday, several Christian churches were reported to have been attacked. Christians, who make up 10% of Egypt's population, are blamed by some Islamists for Morsi's downfall. The United States has led a chorus of international concern about the crackdown, publicly condemning the violence that resulted in the worst loss of life on a single day since the overthrow of Morsi. The White House said "the world is watching", but there was still no sign that the US was prepared to characterize Morsi's removal by the army as a coup, which would trigger an automatic congressional ban on $1.3bn in annual aid to the Egyptian military.