Death Toll in Egypt Surpasses 600

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from The New York Times,

The death toll surpassed 600 on Thursday from Egypt’s bloodiest crackdown on supporters of its deposed Islamist president as violent new protests erupted in the country and world condemnation widened, including an angry response by President Obama and calls for a suspension of European economic aid.

In defiance of calls for restraint, Egypt’s Interior Ministry warned protesters that police officers were authorized to use lethal force to protect themselves. The ministry also promised to punish any “terrorist actions and sabotage” after at least two government buildings were burned early Thursday.

“The ministry has given instructions to all forces to use live ammunition in the face of any attacks on establishments or forces within the framework of the regulations of using the legitimate right of self-defense,” the ministry said in a statement. “All the forces assigned to securing and protecting these establishments were provided with the weapons and the ammunition necessary to deter any attack that may target them.”

The scorched-earth assault by security forces on Wednesday, which razed two protest camps in Cairo set up by backers of the deposed president, Mohamed Morsi, was far more ferocious and extensive than the gradual pressure promised by the interim government that replaced him.

In his first response to the mass killings, Mr. Obama strongly condemned the Egyptian government’s use of brute force to crush the protests and said the United States had canceled military exercises with the Egypt’s armed forces scheduled for next month. Mr. Obama also warned of further unspecified steps if Egypt’s interim leaders continued down what he called a “more dangerous path.”

But he said nothing about cutting the $1.3 billion in annual military aid that the United States provides to Egypt and acknowledged that the United States had historically regarded the country as a friend and a “cornerstone for peace in the Middle East.”

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