Egypt Tahrir Square million-man_311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
CAIRO - Egyptians frustrated with military rule battled police in the
streets again on Tuesday as the generals scrambled to cope with the
cabinet's proffered resignation after bloodshed that has jolted plans
for Egypt's first free election in decades.
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In a stinging verdict
on nine months of army control, London-based rights group Amnesty
International accused the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces
(SCAF) of brutality sometimes exceeding that of former Egyptian
president Hosni Mubarak.
of people defied tear gas wafting across Cairo's Tahrir Square, the
focus of protests that have swelled since Friday into the gravest
challenge yet to the generals who replaced Mubarak and who seem
reluctant to relinquish military power and privilege.
council, headed by a 76-year-old field marshal who served as Mubarak's
defense minister for two decades, was due to meet political parties to
discuss the crisis, in which at least 36 people have been killed and
more than 1,250 wounded.
The United States, which gives Egypt's
military $1.3 billion a year in aid, has called for restraint on all
sides and urged Egypt to proceed with elections due to start on Monday
despite the violence, a stance broadly echoed by many European leaders.
waving flags and singing songs skirmished with security forces in and
around Tahrir Square, where banners read "Save Egypt from thieves and
the military" and "Handing power to civilians is the demand of all
Youth groups have called for a mass turnout later in
the day to press demands for the military to give way to civilian rule
now, rather than according to its own ponderous timetable, which could
keep it in power until late 2012 or early 2013.
forces put up barbed wire on streets leading from Tahrir to the
Interior Ministry, but an army officer on the spot said protesters had
repeatedly removed the makeshift barriers.
"Come to Tahrir,
tomorrow we will overthrow the field marshal!" youthful protesters
chanted, referring to Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the army
Tantawi and his colleagues will not formally accept
the resignation of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf's government until they
have agreed on a new premier, an army source said.
It was not
clear if the army would try to replace the whole cabinet - a tough
challenge with polling only days away - or just ditch the unpopular
interior and information ministers.
Many Egyptians respect the
army and praise its role in easing Mubarak out on Feb. 11. But tolerance
for army rule has worn thin, especially after attempts to set up
constitutional principles that would keep the military beyond civilian
On Monday night the army council called for calm and voiced its "deepest regret" for the casualties so far.
presidential candidate Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, who had joined the
protests in Tahrir Square, described the apology as worthless. "I call
on them to step down," he said.
Political uncertainty has gripped Egypt since Mubarak's fall, while
sectarian clashes, labor unrest, gas pipeline sabotage and a gaping
absence of tourists have paralyzed the economy and prompted a widespread
yearning for stability.
Several banks in central Cairo were closed on Tuesday as a precaution against looting, the state news agency said.
Amnesty International said the military had made only empty promises to
improve human rights. Military courts had tried thousands of civilians
and emergency law had been extended.
Torture had continued in army custody, and there were consistent reports
of security forces employing armed "thugs" to attack protesters, it
added in a report.
"The SCAF has continued the tradition of repressive rule which the Jan.
25 demonstrators fought so hard to get rid of," said Philip Luther,
Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa acting director.