Egpytian soldiers in Tahrir Square 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
CAIRO - Military police battled demonstrators in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Sunday, the third day of clashes that have killed 10 people and injured hundreds, casting a shadow over the first free election most Egyptians can remember.
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Soldiers advanced from barriers around the square shortly before dawn, scuffling with protesters, activists said. A Reuters witness heard gunfire and saw protesters, brandishing big sticks, running from the scene of the latest flare-up.
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"It's cat-and-mouse. The army raid and retreat," a protester in the square, Mostafa Fahmy, said by telephone.
Hundreds of protesters were in Tahrir in the early morning, some huddled
round fires to keep warm in the chill air after troops burned down
tents that had been erected by activists camped there since a protest
against army rule on Nov. 18.
The latest flare-up in violence has exposed divisions among Egyptians
about the role of the army, which took over after the ousting of
president Hosni Mubarak in February.
Activists have stayed out on the streets for weeks, angered by the
army's seeming reluctance to give up power. But other Egyptians back the
military as a force for badly needed stability during a difficult
transition to democracy.
Army vehicles and soldiers were deployed on several roads leading into
the square. Protesters and troops have clashed repeatedly, throwing
rocks at each other, and some protesters have lobbed petrol bombs at
In earlier clashes, troops in riot gear chased protesters into side
streets, grabbed them, beat them to the ground and battered them, a
Reuters journalist said. Shots were fired in the air.
Soldiers pulled down protester tents and set them on fire, local TV
footage showed. Reuters footage showed one soldier in a line of charging
troops firing a shot at fleeing protesters, though whether he was using
blanks or live rounds was not known.
State media gave conflicting accounts of what sparked the violence. They
quoted some people as saying a man went into the parliament compound to
retrieve a mis-kicked football, but was harassed and beaten by police
and guards. Others said the man had prompted scuffles by trying to set
up camp in the compound.
The latest bloodshed follows unrest in which 42 people were killed in
the week before Nov. 28, the start of a phased parliamentary poll in
which Islamist parties repressed during the 30-year Mubarak era have
emerged as strong front-runners.
Voting in the second round of the election process, part of a promised
transition from army to civilian rule by July, passed peacefully on
Wednesday and Thursday. The last run-off vote for the lower house takes
place on Jan. 11.
Health Minister Fouad el-Nawawy told local television 10 people had been
killed, most of them on Friday or early on Saturday, and 441 injured.
State media said at least 200 people were taken to hospital.
Army-appointed Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri, 78, said 30 security
guards outside parliament had been hurt, and blamed the violence on
youths among the protesters. "What is happening in the streets today is
not a revolution, rather it is an attack on the revolution," he said.