Egypt's Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim (Photo: AP)
Egypt's interior minister said on Sunday that the deadly dispersal of two large protest camps by Muslim Brotherhood supporters last year will be remembered as an anniversary for policemen martyred in the line of duty.
Hundreds were killed on 14 August last year when security forces violently cleared the sites of two protest camps set up by supporters of deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in Rabaa Al-Adawiya and Nahda squares in the capital.
Official government estimates put the death toll at almost 650, although Human Rights Watch has said the toll was at least 817 at the main Rabaa sit-in alone.
Eight policemen were killed in the dispersal of Rabaa and two in Al-Nahda, according to an official government tally last December.
In comments to the country's official news agency, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said the dispersal will remain "an eternal anniversary of police martyrs."
He said 114 security personnel were killed in the period from 14 August until 31 August last year. The dispersal of the two camps was followed by country-wide violence and clashes between protesters and police. Dozens of churches were attacked in the violence, as were numerous police stations.
"They [the police] made a national saga," Ibrahim told MENA agency. "They faced a fierce battle with terrorist forces [and] sacrificed their lives to protect the people's will and achieve victory for the people against the terrorism of the Muslim Brotherhood."
Almost a dozen people were killed last week in clashes with security forces during protests marking the anniversary of the dispersals.
Human Rights Watch released a lengthy report last week about the killings, saying authorities committed what probably amounts to crimes against humanity, and calling for a UN probe. The US-based rights watchdog compared the dispersal to the 1989 massacre of protesters in China's Tiananmen Square.
Egyptian authorities have cracked down hard on supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood since Morsi was toppled last summer amid massive street protests against his year-long rule. Thousands have been jailed and the organisation was declared a terrorist group and banned.
At the same time, militant attacks have surged since Morsi's removal, with fighters based in the Sinai Peninsula killing hundreds of police and troops.