By Holly Yan, Saad Abedine and Reza Sayah, CNN
Egyptian security forces stormed two massive makeshift camps filled with ousted President Mohamed Morsy’s supporters, bulldozing tents and escorting away hundreds of protesters.
Within three hours of the raid, forces had cleared the smaller of the two camps — the Nahda camp, near the Cairo University campus.
But the larger — near the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in eastern Cairo — has proven trickier, with forces facing heavy resistance. The military called in its special forces.
In the chaos of the raids, it was impossible for CNN to verify the claims and counter claims of casualties.
The Muslim Brotherhood said 200 Morsy supporters were killed and more than 8,000 injured.
The Health Ministry put the number at nine protesters dead and 78 wounded.
It also said five security officials were killed and 29 others were injured while trying to trying to disperse the protesters.
The government blocked all roads leading to the Rabaa camp, and suspended rail service to Cairo.
The Brotherhood said it was to prevent more of its members from streaming into the city.
A new war zone
The raids began around dawn at the two camps.
Within three hours,all that remained at the Nahda camp were remnants of torn-down tents.
But it was a different picture at Rabaa, where protester Hassan Al Qabana said the location was facing a “full-on assault.”
One of the main entrances to the Rabaa camp looked like a war zone. Bursts of gunfire pierced through the thick smoke and tear gas that filled the air. Some of the gunfire sounded like it came from automatic weapons.
Many cried or wailed, denouncing military leaders and pointing to bullet holes. Some of the injured — or possibly dead — were ushered away on stretchers to a makeshift clinic.
Yet throngs of Morsy supporters headed toward the scene, flooding a bridge and road leading to Rabaa al-Adawiya square, footage from state-run Nile TV showed. The protesters clashed with with security forces.
The chaos wasn’t limited to Cairo. Morsy’s supporters besieged various churches in Sohag, setting fire to Saint George’s Church, a tour bus and a police car, Egyptian state-run media reported.
The Interior Ministry said more than 200 were arrested, caught with weapons and ammunition.
Huge black plumes of smoke billowed into the sky, and at least one fire burned near the protesters.
Mothers and fathers whisked away children, gas masks on their faces. A group of protesters tried unsuccessfully to flip over a police van.
Protests leaders stood on a stage with a microphone. Throngs of supporters raised their hands in a peace sign or waved Egypt’s flag.
The Muslim Brotherhood said police were throwing Molotov cocktails at the clinics inside the camps.
The Interior Ministry said security forces did not use gunfire and instead were attacked by “terrorist elements” inside the camps.
“Egyptian security forces are committed to the utmost self-restraint in dealing with the protesters,” the ministry said.
In an effort to fend off security forces, protesters broke off tree branches and dragged pipes and planks to build makeshift barriers in the streets near the Rabaa camp.
Those who spoke to CNN insisted they had no weapons and were demonstrating peacefully.
One man who appeared bloodied told CNN his friends had been killed. He said bodies could be seen in makeshift clinics.
Many Morsy supporters said they were willing to die for their cause.
Cities within a city
For six chaotic weeks, Morsy supporters had massed at the two camps — refusing to budge until Morsy was reinstated. Their camps quickly morphed into cities within a city.
They lived and slept in tents.
Vendors sold everything from haircuts to masks. Children played in inflatable castles and splashed in kiddie pools.
The government has accused the protesters of packing the sites with their children to use them as human shields.
The raid Wednesday was not unexpected.
Since the Muslim holy month of Ramadan ended last week, the protesters had hunkered down and waited for the crackdown that the government had long hinted at.
They fortified their sites with sandbags, tires and stacks of bricks.
A deadly toll
The protests started soon after Egypt’s military toppled Morsy in a coup last month.
Hundreds have been killed and thousands have been injured in recent weeks, either in clashes between opposing protesters or in clashes between protesters and Egyptian security forces.
Last month, Information Minister Durriya Sharaf el-Din said the gatherings were a threat to national security and traffic congestion.
And two weeks ago, Mansour issued orders in the event of a possible “state of emergency,” the EGYnews website reported.
“State of emergency” is a loaded term in Egypt. Former President Hosni Mubarak ruled for 30 years under an emergency decree that barred unauthorized assembly, restricted freedom of speech and allowed police to jail people indefinitely.
Morsy became Egypt’s first democratically elected president in 2012, a year after popular protests forced Mubarak to resign and end his three-decade rule.
But a year into Morsy’s term, many Egyptians wanted him out, too. They said the Western-educated Islamist, aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood movement, was not inclusive and they said he had failed to deliver on the people’s aspirations for freedom and social justice.
Morsy was accused of authoritarianism and trying to force the Brotherhood’s Islamic agenda onto the nation’s laws. He was also criticized by many Egyptians frustrated with rampant crime and a struggling economy that hadn’t shown improvement since Mubarak resigned.
But supporters say Morsy repeatedly offered Cabinet positions to secularists and liberals — only to get repeatedly rejected.
Since taking power from Morsy, Egypt’s military has installed an interim civilian government with Mansour as interim president.
But Egypt’s generals, the ones who oversaw Morsy’s ouster and led the country for a year after Mubarak’s resignation, still wield significant power.
The list of accusations against Morsy include: collaborating with the militant group Hamas to carry out hostile acts, attacking law enforcement buildings, officers and soldiers, storming prisons, vandalizing buildings and deliberately burning a prison.
He hasn’t been seen since his ouster.
CNN’s Reza Sayah reported from Cairo and Saad Abedine from Atlanta; Holly Yan wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Salma Abdelaziz in Cairo also contributed to this report.
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