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Tense Calm in Egypt Under State of Emergency

  • VOA News

A tense calm remained in Egypt early Thursday after a government-imposed, overnight curfew to restore order in a country shaken by clashes that left hundreds dead.

The curfew is part of a month-long state of emergency Egypt's interim leaders ordered Wednesday in the aftermath of clashes that began when security forces broke up a pair of protest camps in Cairo.

The government says that violence along with fighting in Alexandria, Minya, Assiut and Suez killed 278 people, including 43 policemen.

Authorities had warned for days they would move against the protest camps, where demonstrators led by the Muslim Brotherhood rallied against Egypt's military and its ouster of president Mohamed Morsi.

A Muslim Brotherhood spokesman posted a dramatically higher death toll Thursday, saying more than 4,500 people had been killed.

Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim defended the actions of security forces, saying they used minimum force against the camps and only fired tear gas. He blamed the Brotherhood for creating what he called a state of mayhem across the country by shooting at police, attacking government buildings and burning churches.

Ibrahim says the interim government is heeding the call of the people to bring stability back to Egypt.

Pro-reform leader Mohamed ElBaradei resigned his post as interim vice president following Wednesday's violence. He said he is not prepared to be held responsible for even "a single drop of blood."

Egypt's railway authority has suspended train service in and out of Cairo to keep activists from regrouping elsewhere.