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Obama cancels military drills amid rising death toll

President Obama announced the cancellation of next month’s joint military exercises with Egypt, while leaving more than $1 billion in annual military aid in place, as the United States reviews its relations with the most populous Arab nation in the wake of the violence. With at least 638 people killed, the violence marks the deadliest day in Egypt since the 2011 uprising that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak. The Post’s Liz Sly and Abigail Hauslohner are reporting from Cairo. Read our report here.

People mourn sitting next to bodies of their relatives at El-Iman mosque in Cairo, on Aug. 15, 2013. (Ap)

People mourn sitting next to bodies of their relatives at El-Iman mosque in Cairo, on Aug. 15, 2013. (Ap)

Roundup of today's news

An Egyptian mourns the death of his relative who died during clashes on Wednesday, at the al-Imene mosque in Cairo. (EPA)

An Egyptian mourns the death of a relative who died during clashes on Wednesday, at the al-Imene mosque in Cairo. (EPA)

Here is a summary of headlines from some of the day’s major developments.

- The Associated Press reported that the Egyptian Health Ministry raised the death toll from Wednesday’s violence from 525 to 638. The U.S. State Department warned American citizens to defer travel to Egypt and asked its citizens living in Egypt to leave immediately because of the continuing political and social unrest.

- President Obama canceled a joint military exercise with Egypt –  while leaving more than $1 billion dollars in annual military aid in place –  in a measured response to the government’s violent repression of opposition demonstrations.

- France, Britain and Australia called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the deadly violence in Egypt.

- More than 200 charred and mutilated bodies remain at a mosque in Cairo, uncounted and unacknowledged by the state, according to Reuters, which compared the scene to the “aftermath of a battle from World War One.”

- Protesters stormed a governorate building in Giza and burned it. State TV blamed supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi for the fire. Egypt’s Interior Ministry authorized security forces to use live ammunition against anyone attacking government installations or security forces.

- Egypt shortened the curfew hours imposed on Cairo and 13 other cities. The curfew would go into effect at 9 p.m. and end at 6 a.m. local time.

- Supporters of  Morsi and members of the Muslim Brotherhood called for more protests on Friday.

U.S. warns citizens to leave Egypt

The U.S. Department of State has warned American citizens to defer travel to Egypt and has asked its citizens living in Egypt to depart immediately because of the continuing political and social unrest.

From the official statement posted on the State Department’s Web site:

On August 14, the Government of Egypt declared a State of Emergency that includes a curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. in select governates, including Cairo and Alexandria. The U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens who choose to remain in Egypt to comply with local regulations and follow local media for updates applicable to your specific location.

The U.S. Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid all demonstrations in Egypt, as even peaceful ones can quickly become violent, and a foreigner could become a target of harassment or worse. On June 28, a U.S. citizen was killed during a demonstration in Alexandria. Because of the proximity of the U.S. Embassy to Tahrir Square in Cairo, the U.S. Embassy has sometimes been closed to the public on short notice due to violent protests. The Embassy will notify U.S. citizens as quickly as possible of any closing and the types of emergency consular services that will be available. Should security forces block off the area around the U.S. Embassy during demonstrations, U.S. citizens should contact the American Citizens Services section before attempting to come to the U.S. Embassy during that time. U.S. citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to carry identification and, if moving about alone, a cell phone or other means of communication that works in Egypt.

Read the full travel warning here.

Healthy Ministry raises death toll to 638

The Associated Press reports that the Egyptian Health Ministry has raised the death toll from 525 to 638.

Cairo in chaos: A view from the ground

Independent journalist Sharif Abdel Kouddous spoke with The Post’s On Background from Egypt on the “very, very horrific” scene that took place on Wednesday. Kouddous said the crackdown was reminiscent of life under previous regimes in Egypt and could have ramifications for the country for years, even decades.

“If we’ve learned anything over the past two years it’s that you cannot enforce stability. That only leads to more chaos,” says Kouddous. Watch the full video below.

France, Britain call for Security Council meeting

France, Britain and Australia have called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the deadly violence in Egypt, according to Agence France-Presse. France, Britain and Australia are three of the 15 countries currently sitting on the Security Council, of which France and Britain are permanent members.

There has been no indication of a response from the United States regarding an emergency meeting of the Security Council.

Video: Man carrying an injured man is shot

A video posted on YouTube, which we cannot independently verify, appears to show a man who is carrying an injured man falling to the street after being shot at.

Lawmakers call for halt to Egypt aid

Following President Obama’s decision to cancel a biennial joint military exercise with Egypt, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) took to Twitter to express his unhappiness about the continuation of $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid to the country.

In a statement published on his Web site, Paul said:

“While President Obama ‘condemns the violence in Egypt’, his Administration continues to send billions of taxpayer dollars to help pay for it. The law is very clear when a coup d’état takes place, foreign aid must stop, regardless of the circumstances. With more than 500 dead and thousands more injured this week alone, chaos only continues to grow in Egypt. So Mr. President, stop skirting the issue, follow the law, and cancel all foreign aid to Egypt.”

According to Politico, the Democratic response to Obama’s statement was generally more positive, but calls for halting military aid to Egypt continued from Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.)

“While suspending joint military exercises as the president has done is an important step, our law is clear: aid to the Egyptian military should cease unless they restore democracy,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who is working with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on legislative language that would impose conditions on assistance to Egypt.

Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) has also called for aid suspension until elections are scheduled.

You can read the full Politico story here.

Reuters: Egypt shortens curfew hours

Reuters reports that Egypt has shortened the curfew hours imposed on Cairo and 13 other cities. “The curfew will start at 9 p.m. (3 p.m. ET), instead of 7 p.m., lasting until 6 a.m., a cabinet statement said,” according to Reuters.

Photo: A day after the bloodshed

A horse cart and cars drive past security forces atop an armored personnel carrier standing guard on a street in Nasr City, on Thursday. Egyptian authorities significantly raised the death toll from Wednesday’s clashes, saying hundreds of people died and laying bare the extent of the violence that swept much of the country and prompted the government to declare a nationwide state of emergency and a nighttime curfew.

A horse cart and cars drive past security forces atop an armored personnel carrier standing guard on a street in Cairo's Nasr City.  (AP)

A horse cart and cars drive past security forces atop an armored personnel carrier standing guard on a street in Cairo’s Nasr City. (AP)

Interior Ministry threatens to use live bullets

Al-Jazeera’s Gregg Carlstrom says that Egypt’s Interior Ministry has warned it will use live ammunition against anyone attacking government installations or security forces.

Scene inside al-Iman mosque in Cairo

The Post’s Abigail Hauslohner is at the al-Iman mosque in Cairo, where she says some 200 bodies are awaiting identification and burial.

Reactions to canceling military exercise

President Obama’s decision to cancel a biennial joint military exercise with Egypt  – while leaving more than $1 billion dollars in annual military aid in place — is being seen as a symbolic gesture that will have no effect on the Egyptian armed forces’ actions. Reactions to Obama’s statement have been mostly skeptical on Twitter, where the cancellation of the exercise is being likened to, well, many things.

President Obama's statement on Egypt

From the Post’s Scott Wilson:

President Obama canceled a joint military exercise with Egypt on Thursday – while leaving more than a billion dollars in annual military aid in place – in a measured response to the government’s violent repression of opposition demonstrations.

Interrupting his vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., Obama said American “national security interests in this part of the world and the belief that our engagement can support a transition back to democray” has prompted him to maintain $1.3 billion in annual military to Egypt’s interim government.

But after the recent violence against opposition demonstrators, which has left hundreds dead in Cairo and sparked a broader backlash across the nation, Obama said, “Our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual.”

Obama said the biannual joint training exercise, known as Bright Star, would not proceed as scheduled next month. The event was also postponed in 2011, after popular protests led to the ouster of Egypt’s longtime leader Hosni Mubarak, but U.S. officials hoped it would resume this year.

The president spoke as the death toll from Wednesday’s government crackdown rose significantly overnight, raising the threat of prolonged violence and enduring military rule on the Arab world’s most populous nation.

Egyptian officials say 525 people were killed, and hundreds more injured, when Egyptian security forces cleared a series of makeshift camps where anti-government protesters had been staging a weeks-long demonstration against last month’s military ouster of elected President Mohammed Morsi.

You can watch the video below:

You can read the full transcript of Obama’s statement here.

Protesters burn government building in Giza

Protesters have stormed a governorate building in Giza and burned it, according to images and videos posted by several journalists in the area. According to the Associated Press, State TV has blamed supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi for the fire.

Associated Press reporters saw the buildings — a two-story colonial style villa and a four-story administrative building — set ablaze on Thursday.

The Giza government offices are located on the Pyramids Road on the west bank of the River Nile.

State TV blamed supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi for the fire. Its footage shows both structures burning with fire men evacuating employees from the larger building.

Russia Today posted this video that shows firefighters trying to put out the fire after the building was set ablaze.

Betsy Hiel, who is reporting from Egypt for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review posted this image.

A photo posted by NBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin shows black smoke coming from the burning building.

Another image posted by Egypt Independent shows a burning fire truck, which is said to be outside the governorate building.

Charred bodies at Cairo mosque

More than 200 charred and mutilated bodies remain at a mosque in Cairo, uncounted and unacknowledged by the state, according to this vivid piece by Reuters, which compared the scene to the “aftermath of a battle from World War One.”

Helpers at the Al-Iman mosque accused the government of ignoring the rows of corpses, laid out in white shrouds to await collection by relatives in a charnel house that looked like the aftermath of a battle from World War One.

Medics pushed burning incense sticks into blocks of ice covering the bodies and sprayed air freshener to cover up the overpowering stench of decay. A cry of “Allahu akbar” (God is Greatest) echoed through a loudspeaker at the back of the mosque.

The Guardian’s Patrick Kingsley shared this image (Warning: very graphic) of one of the charred bodies he saw at the mosque.

A second photo by Kingsley shows bodies covered in white sheets lined up for families to identify.

Obama to make a statement on Egypt

The White House says President Obama will make a statement on Egypt at 10:15 EST, from Martha’s Vineyard, where he is on a vacation.

In an article published late Wednesday, Reuters said that the bloodshed may have forced the Obama administration to consider adopting a more muscular stance toward Egypt’s military.

As a first step, two U.S. officials said, the administration might respond to the violence in which more than 200 people were killed by scrapping the “Bright Star” exercises, which occur every two years and are a major point of pride for the Egyptian military.

“They’re taking a hard look at it,” said a U.S. official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

Haunting aerial footage of Cairo

An aerial footage published by the BBC shows Cairo burning, with multiple fires on the street corners, a vehicle ablaze on the bridge, and absolutely no one on the streets of a city that is usually vibrant at that time of night.

Inside the hospital in Rabaa

Alice Fordham, a reporter for the National, based in Abu Dhabi, posted this image from from Rabaa al-Adawiya, which was one of the sites of bloody clashes on Wednesday.

Heba Morayef, the director of Human Rights Watch in Egypt, posted this image of people going through ID cards inside the mosque to find out if their relatives were among the dead.

Fordham’s tweets from the Liltaqmeen al-Sahy Hospital in Nasr City, which is close to Rabaa, give a sense of the chaos inside the medical center.

Egypt death toll is raised to 525

A day after bloody clashes left hundreds dead in Cairo following a police raid of two camps of supporters of ousted president Mohamed, Egypt’s Health Ministry has raised the official death toll to 525.

The Muslim Brotherhood says the actual number of dead is far more than what the Ministry of Health claims. Brotherhood’s spokesman Gehad el-Haddad tweets:

As The Post’s Abby Hauslohner reports, Wednesday was the deadliest day in Egypt since the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak, and the fallout dealt a further blow to the prospect that the country might resume its path toward democracy.

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