Egypt Tahrir clashes rage on for fifth day

Armed security forces fire weapons, use batons, teargas in latest security operation; death toll rises to 13.

By REUTERS
December 20, 2011 07:10
2 minute read.
Protester throw a stones at riot police in Cairo

Egyptian protesters in Cairo 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

 
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CAIRO - Egyptian police and soldiers fired weapons and used batons and teargas for a fifth day on Tuesday in the latest security operation to clear Cairo's central Tahrir Square of opponents of army rule.

The sound of heavy gunfire rang out across the square as armed security forces charged hundreds of protesters attempting to hold their ground, activists and a Reuters witness said.

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"Hundreds of state security forces and the army entered the square and began firing heavily. They chased protesters and burned anything in their way, including medical supplies and blankets," protester Ismail said by telephone.

Before the latest security charge, protesters had been trying to tear down a brick wall the army had put up to block access to parliament, which is located beside the square.

A security source told Reuters some protesters wanted to remove the wall in order to reach parliament and destroy it.

Medical sources have said 13 people have been killed since Friday, but the protesters say the latest attack produced more casualties. "Some of those who fell had gunshot wounds to the legs," Ismail said.

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Hundreds more were wounded and scores have been detained in attempts to disperse protests in and around Tahrir Square, hub of the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in February.

Politicians and members of parliament who had been staging a sit-in nearby tried to enter the square but were forced to turn back as the pitched gun battle raged on, Ismail said.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the use of "excessive" force against the protests, which have deepened a rift among Egyptians over the role of the army and cast a shadow over the country's first free election in decades.

An army general told a news conference that "evil forces" wanted to sow chaos and said soldiers had shown "self-restraint" despite provocation by those trying to burn down buildings and create discord between the army and the people.

The human rights watchdog Amnesty International called on arms suppliers to stop sending small arms and ammunition to Egypt's military and security forces in the wake of the violent crackdown on protesters.

Reporters Without Borders said the army's "systematic use of violence against media personnel", was blocking access to information in and around the square.

Soldiers have been filmed using batons to beat protesters, even after they have fallen to the ground, while many protesters have hurled stones.

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