Death toll rises to 22 as clashes in Egypt continue

Security forces fire tear gas, attack makeshift field hospital in Cairo's Tahrir Square, protesters break up pavement to hurl chunks of concrete at police.

By REUTERS
November 21, 2011 10:56
2 minute read.
Protester stands in burning building in Cairo

Tahrir Fire 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

CAIRO - Protesters demanding Egypt's ruling generals hand over power beat back a new police raid to evict them from Cairo's central Tahrir Square on Monday, witnesses said.

At least 22 people have been killed and 425 wounded since violence erupted in downtown Cairo three days ago, according to the Egyptian Health Ministry. Police fired tear gas and attacked a makeshift field hospital, while protesters broke up pavements to hurl the chunks of concrete at police.

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Black smoke billowed from a six-storey apartment building near the square and a woman screamed for help from a top-floor window. Firefighters arrived but police fired tear gas from a side street at a crowd gathered below, angering bystanders. Some residents tried to scale the building to rescue those trapped.

The clashes between government forces and protesters in Cairo and other Egyptian cities have killed at least 12 people since Saturday in some of the worst violence since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.

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"There is clearly no going back as you can see this violence cannot be swept under the table," said Essam Gouda, a protester in Tahrir, who said two marches were due to converge there by mid-afternoon.

"We aim to control the entry points to the square so that security doesn't block protesters from entering," said Essam.

Tahrir Square was the rallying point for protesters in Cairo when an 18-day uprising toppled Mubarak from three decades of power in February.

With just a week before voting in the first free parliamentary election in decades, the confrontations have raised concerns about how smooth voting will be.

Egyptians elect a new parliament in a staggered vote that starts on Nov. 28, but even when the assembly is picked, presidential powers remain with the army until a presidential poll, which may not happen until late 2012 or early 2013. Protesters want a much swifter transition.

Police backed by army officers fired salvos of gas canisters and charged demonstrators in the square as darkness fell on Sunday, temporarily sending protesters fleeing. Demonstrators brandished spent shotgun cartridges and bullet casings, although police denied using live rounds.



Security forces burned down banners and Internet clips, which could not be independently checked, showed police beating protesters with sticks, pulling them by the hair and, in one case, dumping what appeared to be a corpse on piles of rubbish.

Demonstrators swiftly regrouped in side streets and returned to take control of the square overnight before police tried again to retake Tahrir after dawn.

Tantawi the target of protests

Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak's defense minister for two decades and who leads the army council, has become a target of protests.

"I don't want Tantawi ... I am staying tonight," said Ayman Ramadan, a data entry employee, said early on Monday morning.

Outside the burning apartment building, protesters chanted: "Tantawi burnt it and here are the revolutionaries!"


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