Egypt: Bloody ‘war zone’ as security forces clear Cairo square

Cairo (CNN) — CNN correspondents have been describing bloody scenes as security forces move to clear out a sit-in by supporters of Egypt’s deposed president Mohamed Morsy in east Cairo.

egyptArriving at one of the entrances to the Rabaa al-Adawiya Square encampment at about 9:30am local time, CNN’s Reza Sayah said the scene resembled “a war zone.”

Thick plumes of black smoke were rising through the air from where it was understood security forces had entered the area and pro-Morsy supporters were facing off against those forces, he said.

Protesters were breaking bricks and gunfire could be heard, while tear gas was filling the air.

“Up above there are military helicopters and this is just an all-out fight and I think this is what a lot of people were concerned about — this kind of violent scene,” he said.

“There’s heavy tear gas being used. A lot of people are emotional, we’ve seen women cry, we’ve seen people appear to lose consciousness because of the tear gas and now we just wait to see what happens.

“This is going to be an incredibly difficult demonstration to clear out. Not like the one [the Nahda camp] that was cleared out earlier today by security forces — this is a much larger sit-in.”

As Sayah spoke to CNN, he described protesters barricading the street his television crew had arrived on, and on which fighting had broken out.

It was unclear whether the clash had involved security forces or residents opposed to the sit-in, he said.

“That’s not unusual for residents who are against the Muslim Brotherhood — against the former president — to get in on these fights.”

The protesters appeared to be surrounded on all sides, he said.

“This is the most intense gunfire that I’ve personally heard during these clashes over the past six weeks. Clearly some of it automatic weapons, some of it sounds like it’s coming from rooftops.

“I haven’t seen any weapons on this side — I haven’t seen any protesters firing weapons but they are breaking bricks, throwing rocks — it’s not clear what they’re throwing at. But there’s a lot of chaos here.”

Two hours later, Sayah said the outcome of the gunfight had been “incredibly bloody.”

“Over the hours we’ve seen one body after another pass through to a makeshift clinic.”

On the other side of the square, CNN’s Arwa Damon said riot police had been firing tear gas “as groups of pro-Morsy demonstrators tried to break through police lines to join the encampment.”

Military units could be seen behind the riot police, she said.

“At least four ambulances passed through the police lines on their way toward the site of the sit-in. Two members of the security forces could be seen being put into the ambulances.”

Damon and her team later moved to another entrance to the square after experiencing some hostility.

“There were a few individuals in the crowd who were very anti-Western, anti-American, getting very aggressive toward the CNN team.

Other individuals in the crowd were helping us to pull back from that situation,” she said.

In the chaos of the raids, it has been impossible for CNN to verify the claims and counter claims of casualties.

The Muslim Brotherhood said 200 Morsy supporters had been 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.

Video by ElWatanNews