Egypt authorizes police to use live ammunition against violent protesters

Photo: Aljazeera

U.S. has cancelled military drills with Egypt over the crackdown.

The Egyptian Interior Ministry on Thursday authorized the police to use live ammunition to stem further attacks against public or private properties, after a mob set at least one government building alight.

“The interior ministry has instructed all forces to use live ammunition to confront any assaults on the government buildings and police forces,” the interior ministry’s televised statement said.

All the forces concerned with protecting the governmental institution have been given weapons and ammunition needed to counter any attack, it added.

The interior ministry will continue to pursue all the people who participated in any attacks, the statement noted.

The decision came after the headquarters of Egypt’s Giza governorate was stormed and set on fire by supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi on Thursday.

It also came shortly after United States President Barack Obama strongly condemned Egypt’s bloody crackdown on protesters which killed 525 people and injured more than 3500 more on Wednesday.

In a televised speech on Thursday, Mr. Obama demanded that Egyptian army-backed interim government lift the emergency ruled imposed on the country after the attack. He also cancelled a joint military drill between the US and Egypt, planned for next month.

“The Egyptian people deserve better than what we’ve seen,” Mr. Obama said.

He warned of future steps but made no mention of cutting off $1.5 billion in United States military and economic aid to Egypt in wake of the massacres.

“America wants to be a partner in the Egyptian people’s pursuit of a better future,” he said.

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Mr. Obama called on protesters, who have remained on the streets for weeks calling for the reinstatement of the deposed President Mohammed Morsi, to demonstrate peacefully.

He said the United States supports universal rights essential to human dignity, including…peaceful protest.

Mr. Obama said even after the overthrow of Mr. Morsi, political solution was still possible. “Instead, we’ve seen a more dangerous path taken,” he said.

The official figure of deaths from the crackdown stands at 525 but the final toll is likely to be significantly higher, the BBC said.

A BBC reporter in Cairo said scores of bodies have not been registered, because the official count only includes bodies which have passed through hospitals.

That included at least 140 bodies seen wrapped in shrouds at the Eman mosque, close to the main protest camp at Rabaa al-Adawiya Square. These will not have been counted in the official toll.

The Muslim Brotherhood insists that more than 2,000 people died. It says 300 bodies were taken to the Eman mosque, and other bodies were taken to sports halls.

Rights group, Amnesty International, said 108 autopsies were conducted overnight as of 10 a.m. with long line of dead bodies on floor, at least 38 on the ground outside.

Muslim Brotherhood called for more protests on Thursday, and its supporters stormed a government building in Giza Thursday while others staged a sit-in and blocked a road near the nation’s iconic pyramids, state media reported.

The Giza Governate building was evacuated Thursday after protesters stormed the building, Nile TV reported. Televised images later showed the building on fire.

Nile TV also said protesters had blocked a road near the pyramids while others staged a sit-in at a mosque in Nasr City. It was unclear if anyone had been injured.

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