Egypt’s Violence Continues In Cairo Streets Over Military Rule

Egypt’s violence continues in Cairo streets over military rule (Guardian, Dec. 17, 2011):

Security forces and protesters clash in running battles in streets around Tahrir Square 24 hours after nine confirmed dead

Violent clashes between Egyptian security forces and pro-democracy protesters continued in Cairo for a second day with nine now confirmed dead and hundreds injured.

Security forces chased protesters through the streets to Tahrir Square, the centre of the uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak earlier this year. Witnesses said soldiers and demonstrators hurled stones at each other.

One protester, Islam Mohammed, said he saw the army forces storming a field hospital held next to a mosque in Tahrir Square, lobbing medicine and equipment into the streets.

The state-run MENA news agency said about 300 people have been injured in the two days of clashes.

Funerals were due to be held on Saturday for those killed a day earlier. Among the dead was Sheik Emad Effat, a cleric from Al-Azhar, Egypt’s most eminent religious institution. Effat had taken a pro-revolutionary position, criticising the military and issuing a religious decree forbidding voting for former members of the regime in elections. He was shot in the chest after joining the protesters outside the cabinet building.

Mustafa Ali, a protester wounded in clashes last month, said he believed the military was fomenting the violence to “find a justification to remain in power and divide up people into factions”.

The ruling military said in a statement issued on Friday evening that clashes had broken out when a security officer was attacked and protesters had attempted to break into the parliamentary compound. It said its forces had shown self-restraint, denying the use of gunfire.

Egypt’s prime minister, Essam Sharraf, said those who had died of gunshots during the violence had been fired on from behind by another unidentified group, insisting his government backed “the salvation of the revolution”.

“I feel very sad and in so much pain,” he said. “I stress here that the armed forces didn’t engage with protesters and didn’t leave the building.”

There are fears the fresh wave of turmoil in Cairo, which comes two days after millions voted in parliamentary elections, could trigger a repeat of deadly clashes between youth revolutionaries and security forces in November that lasted for days and left more than 40 dead.

The latest violence began late Thursday after soldiers attempted to break up a makeshift protest camp outside the Egyptian cabinet headquarters near Tahrir Square. Witnesses said troops beat up at least one demonstrator and set fire to tents.

Clashes on Friday continued beyond nightfall with scores of youths sheltering behind metal sheet barriers as they launched volleys of stones at military police lined up in front of the parliament and cabinet. On Saturday, security forces sealed off streets around parliament buildings with barbed wire and large concrete blocks.

The military is expected to remain in power until Egypt completes its drawn-out process to elect a new government next month. Young activists who led the protests against Mubarak have been disappointed by results of the first round of elections last month, with Islamist parties taking a clear majority of seats against the more liberal political groups that emerged from the uprising.

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