The death toll from yesterday’s violence in Egypt has risen significantly:
Egyptian authorities on Thursday significantly raised the death toll from clashes the previous day between police and supporters of the ousted Islamist president, saying more than 500 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.
In addition to further destabilizing the country and provoking more violence in the near term, yesterday’s crackdown compounds the initial error of the coup in that it will cause many Islamists in Egypt and elsewhere to conclude that taking up arms is the only route left open to them. Whether or not the latest crackdown triggers a major uprising in Egypt, it is bound to aid jihadist recruitment and contribute to the radicalization of more Muslims. Paul Pillar suggests that this may have been part of the military leadership’s thinking in ordering such a severe crackdown:
Most of the Brotherhood’s supporters were not ready to abandon the peaceful ways that the organization had followed for decades, but their dismay and anger made the protests and the camps inevitable. Now there is the bloody and brutal destruction of the camps, and at least some of those supporters are surely concluding that there is no method left to them but violence.
Wouldn’t the breeding of more Egyptian terrorists be a bad thing from the viewpoint of Egyptian military leaders? Not if they wish to present themselves as a bastion against terrorism and to lay claim as such to American support.
Of course, it is perverse to consider the military a “bastion” against a threat that their actions are making worse, but this will probably be accepted here in the U.S. as a “necessary” arrangement. Instead of doing our best to disentangle the U.S. from our ties to the leaders of the coup, which seems the only sane thing to do at this point, Washington will find new excuses for why this week’s disaster requires even more “engagement” than before.
Update: Shadi Hamid notes on Twitter that the death toll is at least several hundred more than the official tally:
525 is Health Ministry count. NYT has counted 240 additional bodies (see @ddknyt feed). That means at least 765 killed in one day. At least.
— Shadi Hamid (@shadihamid) August 15, 2013
Second update: The number of Christian churches, institutions, and homes attacked has also risen greatly. According to this source, 56 have been attacked and/or burned since yesterday.