Egypt: Protestors were given ‘huge chance’ to go

The Egyptian ambassador to the UK has insisted the authorities’ crackdown on supporters of the ousted president which left more than 500 people dead was a proportionate response.

People reach for a coffin during a funeral for policemen killed during Wednesday's clashes in Cairo. Picture: Reuters

• Ashraf El-Kholy, Egyptian ambassador to the UK claims death toll of over 500 partly due to protestors clashing with each other

• Army and police were only returning fire and were forced to respond, El-Kholy adds

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Ashraf El-Kholy said the outbreak of violence in Cairo yesterday was led by supporters of ex-president Mohammed Morsi, and claimed that the large death toll was partly due to protesters killing each other due to their own recklessness.

Speaking at the Egyptian Cultural Bureau in central London, Mr El-Kholy said the police and army were forced to shoot at demonstrators.

“Of course they did nothing but return fire,” he said.

“If you have somebody firing at you then you have to respond.”

The UK Government has “condemned the use of force” to clear two protest camps and Mr El-Kholy was yesterday warned of the UK’s “deep concern” at events when he was summoned to the Foreign Office (FCO) for a meeting.

But today he told reporters that demonstrators had been given plenty of warning to leave by authorities who had taken what he claimed were “very gradual steps” meaning that any “innocent” people had already left.

“First there is an announcement in the last 10 days,” he said.

“Later on there is an announcement on microphone, later loudspeakers for people to leave. Later on there was watercannon, after that tear gas and later on they started to use bulldozers to move rocks and sandbags.

“That gave a huge chance for innocent people to leave the area.”

The official death toll in the clashes - which have drawn worldwide condemnation for the government’s actions - has risen to 525.

But leaders of Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood claim far more were killed in what they describe as a “massacre” on the streets of the capital.