UN Security Council to meet on Egypt; death toll now at 638

Updated 27 August 2013

UN Security Council to meet on Egypt; death toll now at 638

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council has scheduled an emergency briefing on the latest developments in Egypt following the government’s deadly crackdown on supporters of ousted President Muhammad Mursi.
Britain, France and Australia requested the council meeting and the UN spokesman’s office said Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson will brief the council behind closed doors at 5:30 p.m. EDT (2130 GMT) on Thursday.
UN diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because discussions have been private, said they do not expect the council to issue a statement or adopt a resolution on Thursday.
The Egyptian Health Ministry has raised the death toll from the day’s violence that followed a crackdown on two camps housing supporters of the ousted president to 638.
Ministry spokesman Mohammed Fathallah told The Associated Press on Thursday that the number of injured in the previous day’s violence also has risen to 3,994.
Wednesday’s violence began when police moved to clear two protest camps housing mainly Islamist protesters calling for Muhammad Mursi’s reinstatement. The crackdown prompted clashes elsewhere in Cairo and other cities.
Fathallah said 288 of the dead were killed in the larger of the two camps, in Cairo’s eastern Nasr City district.

Police authorized to use deadly force
Amid mixed world reaction over the carnage, Egyptian authorities on Thursday authorized police to use deadly force to protect themselves and key state institutions from attacks, after presumed supporters of the deposed Islamist president torched two local government buildings near the capital in the latest of a series of apparent reprisals to follow a bloody crackdown on their protest camps.
The Interior Ministry, which is in charge of national security, said in a statement that the new measures come after an angry crowd stormed the buildings in Giza, the city next to Cairo that is home to the Pyramids.
“The ministry has given instruction to all forces to use live ammunition to confront any assaults on institutions or the forces,” the statement read.

Attackers set fire to churches and police stations across the country on Wednesday after security forces assaulted two Cairo sit-ins where thousands of supporters of ousted President Muhammad Mursi were camped out. Officials say the death toll is now 578, mostly Mursi supporters, and 4,200 injured.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s military-backed government pledged in a statement to confront “terrorist actions and sabotage” allegedly carried out by members of Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood group.
“The Cabinet expressed its determination to confront the terrorist actions and sabotage by elements of the Muslim Brotherhood organization,” it said. “These actions are carried out as part of criminal plan that clearly aims at toppling down the state.”
On Wednesday, the government declared a nationwide state of emergency and a nighttime curfew.
Associated Press reporters witnessed the burning buildings in Giza — a two-story colonial-style villa and a four-story administrative building. The offices are located on the Pyramids Road on the west bank of the River Nile.
State TV blamed Mursi supporters for the fire and broadcast footage showing both structures burning as firemen evacuated employees from the larger building.

Attack on Coptic Christians continue
The Brotherhood website Ikhwanweb said thousands marched through Giza but were attacked by pro-military “militias.” It did not say how the government buildings were set on fire.
In the coastal city of Alexandria, witnesses and a security official said, Mursi supporters stabbed a taxi driver to death for hanging a picture of Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi, the leader of the July 3 coup.
“The driver was caught in middle of a protest by the Muslim Brotherhood chanting against the military. He argued with them to watch out, they pulled him out (of his car) and stabbed him,” said Mohammed el-Mashali, a reporter for the Al-Fagr weekly who said he witnessed the killing.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
Tamarod, the youth movement that organized mass rallies calling for Mursi’s ouster, said citizens should set up neighborhood watch groups to protect government and private property.
Meanwhile, successive attacks on Coptic Christian churches continued for a second day, according to Egypt’s official news agency and human rights advocates.
Egypt’s MENA agency said Mursi supporters set fire to the Prince Tadros church in the province of Fayoum, nearly 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Cairo.
Ishaq Ibrahim from The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights says his group has documented as many as 39 incidents of violence against churches, monasteries, Coptic schools and shops in different parts of the country on Wednesday.


Change needed in Lebanon after Beirut blast, says German foreign minister

Updated 59 min 34 sec ago

Change needed in Lebanon after Beirut blast, says German foreign minister

  • Maas gave a check for over 1 million euro to the Lebanese Red Cross
  • It is part of 20 million euros in humanitarian aid from Germany

BEIRUT: Germany’s foreign minister said on Wednesday that Lebanon needed a government that can fight corruption and enact reforms as he toured Beirut port, scene of the devastating explosion that has triggered protests and led the government to resign.
Last week’s blast at a warehouse storing highly-explosive material for years killed at least 171 people, injured some 6,000 and damaged swathes of the Mediterranean city, compounding a deep economic and financial crisis.
“It is impossible that things go on as before,” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said. “The international community is ready to invest but needs securities for these investments. It is important to have a government that fights the corruption.”
“Many in Europe have a lot of interest for this country. They want to know that there are economic reforms and good governance. Whoever takes over responsibility in Lebanon has a lot to do.”
Maas gave a check for over 1 million euro to the Lebanese Red Cross, part of 20 million euros in humanitarian aid from Germany.
International humanitarian assistance has poured in but foreign countries have made clear they will not write blank cheques to a state viewed by its own people as deeply corrupt. Donors are seeking enactment of long-demanded reforms in return for financial assistance to pull Lebanon from economic meltdown.
The resignation of Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government has plunged Lebanon into deeper uncertainty. Its talks with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout had already been put on hold over a row between the government, banks and politicians about the scale of vast financial losses.
Sitting amid the debris, Lebanese expressed their frustration at the state for abandoning them in their desperate efforts to rebuild homes and businesses wrecked in the blast.
“Who knows what will happen. How will we get back to business,” said Antoinne Matta, 74, whose safe and lock store was heavily damaged by the blast. Five employees were wounded.
“We in Lebanon are used to the government not doing anything.”
Unrest has erupted with Lebanese calling for the wholesale removal of a ruling class they brand as responsible for the country’s woes. The financial crisis has ravaged the currency, paralyzed banks and sent prices soaring.
Officials have said the blast could have caused losses of $15 billion, a bill Lebanon cannot pay, given the depths of the financial crisis that has seen people frozen out of their savings accounts since October amid dollar scarcity.
The central bank has instructed local banks to extend interest-free dollar loans to individuals and businesses for essential repairs, and that it would in turn provide those financial institutions with the funding.
Bandali Gharabi, whose photo studio was destroyed, said that so far local authorities had only give him a compensation sheet to fill out. He does not know if the bank will provide financial assistance because he already has a car loan.
“Everything is gone,” he said. “I just want someone to rebuild my shop.”
President Michel Aoun has promised a swift and transparent investigation into the blast at a warehouse where authorities say more than 2,000 tons of ammonium nitrate was stored for years without safety measures. He has said the probe would look into whether it was negligence, an accident or external factors.
Reuters reported that Aoun and Diab were warned in July about the warehoused ammonium nitrate, according to documents and senior security sources.
The presidency did not respond to requests for comment about the warning letter.
An emergency donor conference raised pledges of nearly 253 million euros ($298 million) for immediate humanitarian relief.
Volunteers and construction workers with bulldozers were still clearing wreckage from neighborhoods more than a week after the blast. Rows of destroyed cars were still parked in front of damaged stores and demolished buildings.
Nagy Massoud, 70, was sitting on the balcony when the blast gutted his apartment. He was saved by a wooden door that protected him from flying debris. A stove injured his wife.
His pension is frozen in a bank account he cannot access due to capital controls prompted by the economic crisis.
“Where is the government,” he said, looking around his shattered apartment.