A defiant Muslim Brotherhood declared Thursday it will not back down against a crackdown by Egypt's interim government, vowing to "bring down this military coup" as hundreds of protesters stormed and torched two government buildings in Giza, state television and witnesses say.
State television footage showed firefighters evacuating employees from the larger of the two offices in Giza, Cairo's twin city on the west bank of the Nile River. Police arrested several protesters.
Witnesses told Reuters that hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters also were marching in Alexandria to protest Wednesday's clashes between Egyptian security forces and Brotherhood demonstrators, which left more than 500 dead across the country. Protesters were seen carrying pictures of former President Mohammed Morsi and those killed in the violence. A march in Cairo is slated for Thursday afternoon.
"We will push until we bring down this military coup," Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad wrote on Twitter, according to Reuters.
El-Haddad said early Thursday that the Muslim Brotherhood would remain "non-violent" in their demonstrations, but later took a different stance, saying that the group has been having a difficult time trying to persuade its members to be peaceful in the wake of Wednesday's bloodshed.
"After the blows and arrests and killings that we are facing emotions are too high to be guided by anyone,'" he told Reuters. "It's not about Morsi anymore. Are we going to accept a new military tyranny in Egypt or not?'"
El-Haddad added that Muslim Brotherhood currently can not account for the whereabouts of several of its leaders, calling it a "very strong blow," to the group.
On Thursday, President Barack Obama told reporters that the U.S. is canceling a joint military exercise with Egypt amid the violence, saying "our traditional operations can not be continued as usual as people are being killed in the streets.”
The U.S. has not declared Morsi's ouster a coup, a move that would require the Obama administration to suspend $1.3 billion in annual military aid.
The death toll in Wednesday's crackdown, which stood at 525, according to the latest Health Ministry figures, made it by far the deadliest day since the 2011 popular uprising that toppled longtime ruler and autocrat Hosni Mubarak. The Health Ministry said Thursday that 3,717 people were wounded.
The casualties were mostly in Cairo, where police in riot gear bulldozed two protest camps that had been the flashpoint of growing unrest following Morsi's July 3 ouster.
Near the site of one of the smashed encampments in the eastern Nasr City suburb, an Associated Press reporter on Thursday saw dozens of blood-soaked bodies stored inside a mosque. The bodies were wrapped in sheets and still unclaimed by families.
Relatives at the scene were uncovering the faces in an attempt to identify their loved ones. Many complained that authorities were preventing them from obtaining permits to bury them.
Omar Houzien, a volunteer helping families search for their loved ones, said the bodies were brought in from the Medical Center at the sit-in camp site in the final hours of Wednesday's police sweep because of fears that they would be burned.
A notice plastered on the walled 265 names of those said to have been killed in Wednesday's violence at the sit-in. Funerals for identified victims were expected to take place later on Thursday.
Health Ministry spokesman Khaled el-Khateeb said 202 of the 525 were killed in the Nasr City protest camp, but it was not immediately clear whether the bodies at the mosque were included in that figure.
Cairo, a city of some 18 million people, was uncharacteristically quiet Thursday, with only a fraction of its usually hectic traffic and many stores and government offices shuttered. Many people hunkered down at home for fear of more violence. Banks and the stock market were closed.
Wednesday's violence prompted Interim President Adly Mansour to declare a month-long state of emergency and impose a 7 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew in the city, along with Alexandria, and 12 other provinces, ordering the armed forces to support the police in efforts to restore law and order and protect state facilities.
Backed by helicopters, police on Wednesday fired tear gas and used armored bulldozers to plow into the barricades at the two protest camps on opposite ends of Cairo. Morsi's supporters had been camped out since before he was ousted by a July 3 coup that followed days of mass protests by millions of Egyptians demanding that he step down.
The smaller camp — near Cairo University in Giza — was cleared of protesters relatively quickly, but it took about 12 hours for police to take control of the main sit-in site near the Rabaah al-Adawiya Mosque in Nasr City that has served as the epicenter of the pro-Morsi campaign and had drawn chanting throngs of men, women and children only days earlier.
After the police moved on the camps, street battles broke out in Cairo and other cities across Egypt. Government buildings and police stations were attacked, roads were blocked, and Christian churches were torched, Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim said.
At one point, protesters trapped a police Humvee on an overpass near the Nasr City camp and pushed it off, according to images posted on social networking sites that showed an injured policeman on the ground below, near a pool of blood and the overturned vehicle.
Three journalists were among the dead: Mick Deane, 61, a cameraman for British broadcaster Sky News; Habiba Ahmed Abd Elaziz, 26, a reporter for the Gulf News, a state-backed newspaper in the United Arab Emirates; and Ahmed Abdel Gawad, who wrote for Egypt's state-run newspaper Al Akhbar. Deane and Elaziz were shot to death, their employers said, while the Egyptian Press Syndicate, a journalists' union, said it had no information on how Gawad was killed.
Interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi said in a televised address to the nation that it was a "difficult day" and that he regretted the bloodshed, but offered no apologies for moving against the protesters, saying they were given ample warnings to leave and he had tried foreign mediation efforts. El-Beblawi added that the government could not indefinitely tolerate a challenge to authority that the 6-week-old protests represented.
"We want to see a civilian state in Egypt, not a military state and not a religious state," he said.
Despite the curfew, sporadic clashes continued in Cairo through the evening.
By early afternoon, dozens of Morsi supporters were blocking a main road near the site of the Nasr City camp, disrupting traffic.
In the city of Assiut, south of Cairo, a police station was hit by two mortar shells Wednesday night fired by suspected Morsi supporters, according to officers there who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.
As the fighting intensified Wednesday, Mohamed ElBaradei abruptly resigned as Egypt's interim vice president. In a letter sent to Mansour, ElBaradei cited "decisions I do not agree with" regarding the government's crackdown.
"It has become difficult for me to continue bearing responsibility for decisions that I do not agree with and whose consequences I fear," ElBaradei wrote. "I cannot bear the responsibility for one drop of blood.''
The National Salvation Front, the main opposition group that he headed during Morsi's year in office, said it regretted his departure and complained that it was not consulted in his decision to step down. Tamarod, the youth group behind the mass anti-Morsi protests that preceded the coup, said ElBaradei was dodging his responsibility at a time when his services were needed.
On Thursday, Reuters reported that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had called for the United Nations Security Council to convene quickly to discuss the crisis.
Speaking at a press conference in Turkey's capital, Ankara, Erdogan said "Those who remain silent in the face of this massacre are as guilty as those who carried it out."
The call came after the White House and other European leaders criticized the bloodshed on Wednesday.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest, speaking at Martha's Vineyard, Mass., where Obama is vacationing, said the world is watching what is happening in Egypt and it is "time for them to get back on a path of respecting the basic rights of their people."
Secretary of State John Kerry said the violence in Egypt is deplorable and is a serious blow to reconciliation efforts, and that it runs counter to Egyptians' aspirations for peace.
Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president, had just completed one year in office when he was toppled. He has largely been held incommunicado, but was visited by European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton and an African delegation. Ashton reported that Morsi is well and has access to television and newspapers.
Several bids by the United States, the European Union and Gulf Arab states to reconcile the two sides in Egypt in an inclusive political process have failed, with the Brotherhood insisting that Morsi must first be freed along with several of the group's leaders who have been detained in connection with incitement of violence.