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Wednesday, August 14, 2013 - 8:45am

'Bloodbath' In Cairo As Troops Move On Morsi Supporters

(We most recently updated the top of this post at 12:40 p.m. ET.)

In what looks to be "the bloodiest day since the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi" on July 3, dozens of people were killed in Cairo on Wednesday as government forces moved to clear Morsi's supporters from sites in the city where they have been camped.

By evening (late morning in the U.S.), the BBC was reporting that the death toll had been "raised to 149 by health ministry but [the] Muslim Brotherhood says many hundreds more [were] killed."

At the same time, Egyptian Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei a Nobel Peace Prize laureate was announcing his resignation. His tied his departure to his disapproval of Wednesday's violence, which was dominated by what witnesses said were the gunshots, tear gas and other uses of force by security forces:

"I saw that there were peaceful alternatives to dispersing this social clash and there were acceptable solutions proposed to lead us towards national reconciliation," ElBaradei wrote in his resignation letter. "It is now difficult for me to continue to bear responsibility for decisions that I do not agree with and to which I fear their consequences and I cannot bear responsibility for a single drop of blood before God, before my conscience, and before my citizens, especially as I believe that the bloodshed could've been avoidable.

"Thus unfortunately those who gain from what happened today are those who call for violence, terror, and the more radical groups. And you will remember what I have told you and I delegate my matter to God."

The interim government, meanwhile, declared a state of emergency.

The events brought a rebuke from the Obama administration. Shortly after 12:30 p.m. ET, the White House said it:

"Strongly condemns the use of violence against protesters in Egypt. We extend our condolences to the families of those who have been killed, and to the injured. We have repeatedly called on the Egyptian military and security forces to show restraint, and for the government to respect the universal rights of its citizens, just as we have urged protesters to demonstrate peacefully.

"Violence will only make it more difficult to move Egypt forward on a path to lasting stability and democracy, and runs directly counter to the pledges by the interim government to pursue reconciliation. We also strongly oppose a return to a State of Emergency law, and call on the government to respect basic human rights such as freedom of peaceful assembly, and due process under the law. The world is watching what is happening in Cairo. We urge the government of Egypt and all parties in Egypt to refrain from violence and resolve their differences peacefully."

The day's events were almost sure to renew calls from some U.S. lawmakers that aid to Egypt much of it to that country's military be cut or suspended.

As the sounds of gunfire rang out across the city and smoke billowed, NPR's Leila Fadel told Morning Edition host David Greene that even though it was "impossible to confirm" the number of deaths because journalists weren't being allowed to get close to the action, it appeared there had been a "bloodbath." At one hospital she visited, Leila added in messages to the NPR newsroom, she counted at least 37 bodies.

Though the vast majority of the victims were Egyptians, at least two journalists were among those killed. One was a Sky News photographer, that news outlet said. The other was a reporter for the Dubai-based Gulf News.

We'll continue to focus on reports from authorities and news outlets with reporters at or near the scene and update as more information comes in.

Our original post, from 6:30 a.m. ET:

"It looks like a war zone," NPR's Leila Fadel reported from Cairo Wednesday morning as she spoke with Morning Edition host David Greene about a move by Egyptian security forces to clear supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi from camps in the city that they have been occupying for weeks.

At one camp in eastern Cairo, she said, security forces have surrounded the area, smoke is billowing and there is the sound of gunfire. Videos have shown "dozens of corpses," Leila said.

The Associated Press reports that one of its video journalists at the scene "said he could hear the screams of women as a cloud of white smoke hung over the site in the eastern Cairo suburb of Nasr City."

As often happens when news such as this is breaking, there are conflicting details.

NBC News is saying that "at least 15 people were killed." Al-Jazeera reports that "at least 40 people died." Leila says "the official number is 10," but that the Muslim Brotherhood (from which Morsi hails) "is saying that hundreds are dead."

We'll update as more news comes in from Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt. Leila says there are reports of clashes in Alexandria, Suez, Luxor and other cities. Determining exactly what's going on is difficult, as The Wall Street Journal reports: "The Egyptian army blocked reporters from going to the scene, violating earlier promises the police made to invite the press and human rights activists to observe the clearing of the sit-ins, amid concerns of police brutality."

Morsi was removed from office by Egypt's military on July 3. His ousting followed huge protests against the president's year-old government the first to have been democratically elected in Egypt's history. Millions of Egyptians took to the streets to express their anger about Egypt's stalled economy and what they saw as anti-democratic moves by Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood colleagues.

Interim President Adly Mansour, who had been the Supreme Constitutional Court chief justice, and Egypt's generals have promised that there will be new elections in coming months.

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