Egypt's military throw rocks at protesters
Cairo - Soldiers stormed an anti-military
protest camp outside Egypt's Cabinet building on Friday, beating women with
sticks and hurling chunks of concrete and glass onto protesters from the roof
of the parliament in a resurgence of turmoil only a day after millions voted in
At least seven protesters were shot to death
in the clashes, including a prominent Muslim cleric, activists said. The
heavy-handed assault was apparently an attempt to clear out protesters who have
been camped out in front of the building for three weeks demanding the ruling
military leave power.
But the mayhem - which came despite promises
from the army-appointed prime minister that the protesters would not be cleared
by force -threatened to spark a new round of violence after deadly clashes
between youth revolutionaries and security forces in November that lasted for
days and left more than 40 dead.
Several women protesters cowered on the
pavement as military police beat them with truncheons and long sticks. Another
woman was seen bring dragged away by her hair by soldiers.
Plainclothes and uniformed security officers
threw slabs of concrete and stones on protesters from atop the parliament
building, according to state TV footage and videos and photos posted by
protesters on social networking sites. Protesters threw fire bombs and rocks at
the security officers, lighting a part of parliament on fire and chanting
"Down with the military."
"It's pretty ironic that the military is
throwing rocks at protesters from the parliament building, where a sign is
hanging that says democracy is the power of the people," protester Mostafa
A human rights activist said gunshot wounds
killed at least seven protesters in the clashes.
Ramy Raouf of the Egyptian Initiative for
Personal Rights said bodies arrived overnight at a nearby hospital. Raouf said
it was difficult to tell what kind of bullets killed the protesters and that
full autopsies were expected.
Hours after sunset, the crowds of protesters
had grown to hundreds and clashes continued, with youths hiding behind a
makeshift barrier of metal sheets and an overturned car, throwing volleys of
stones at military police lined up in the broad avenue in front of the
parliament and Cabinet headquarters.
There were reports of live gunfire from the
rooftops. One protester, Islam Mohammed, said a fellow protester pushed him
aside and was hit by a bullet in the stomach. "He took a bullet instead of
me and fell to the ground. I have his blood on my shirt and hands,"
Mohammed said. The condition of the wounded man was not known.
Sahar Abdel-Mohsen, a youth activist, said
she saw the bodies of two slain protesters brought to a Cairo hospital, both
with gunshot wounds. "The blood is still dripping from the head of one of
them," a 22-year-old man, she told The Associated Press. The other was
shot in the chest, she said. A Health Ministry official, speaking on condition
of anonymity because of he was not authorised to talk to the press, confirmed
the two deaths.
Also killed was Sheik Emad Effat, a cleric
from Al-Azhar, Egypt's most eminent religious institution, said Ibrahim
el-Houdaiby, a prominent activist. He said Effat - who has taken a
pro-revolutionary position, criticizing the military and issuing a religious
decree forbidding voting for former members of the regime in elections - was
shot in the heart after joining the protesters outside the Cabinet.
The Health Ministry said at least 222 people
were injured, including broken bones and gunshot wounds.
The assault was likely to re-ignite the
tensions between revolutionaries and the military, which took power after the
February 11 resignation of Hosni Mubarak. The youth activists who led the
protests that ousted Mubarak accuse the military of acting in the same
authoritarian way as the former president.
Ziad el-Oleimi, an activist who won a
parliament seat in the first round of elections on November 28-29, told AP that
military police beat him with sticks on his torso and arms and told him,
"Don't imagine the parliament will protect you."
"So long as Egyptians are being
humiliated and beaten on the streets, that means the revolution has not reached
its goals. Taking to the streets will continue," el-Oleimi said.
The clashes took place as election officials
counted ballots from the second round of parliament elections, considered to be
the freest and fairest vote in Egypt's modern history. A third of Egypt's
provinces voted on Wednesday and Thursday. Election results from the first
round of voting placed Islamist parties ahead of more liberal parties.
The armed forces retain support among many
Egyptians who see it as the only entity able to run the country until
presidential elections scheduled for next year.
But the new violence exacerbates the
Members of a civilian advisory panel created
by the military this month as a gesture to protesters suspended their work,
demanding an immediate end to violence against protesters and a formal apology
from the ruling military council. The panel is also seeking an independent
investigation into the clashes. Two of its members resigned in protest.
A number of newly elected lawmakers condemned
the military for the violence.
The Muslim Brotherhood, the biggest winner in
parliamentary elections so far, said that it rejects the assault on protesters
and the use of the parliament building to attack people.
In a Tweet, leading reform figure and Nobel
Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei wrote, "If the sit-in broke the law,
isn't the cruelty and brutality used to break it up a greater violation of all
human rights laws? This is not how nations are managed."
The protesters have been peacefully camped
out in front the Cabinet building for three weeks, preventing the newly
appointed prime minister, Kamal el-Ganzouri, from entering his office.
In a statement read on state TV Friday night,
the ruling military said its forces did not intent to break up the protest and
said officers showed self-restraint, denying the used any gunfire. It said the
clashes began when a military officer was attacked while on duty and protesters
tried to break into the parliament compound.
But witnesses said the clashes erupted late on
Thursday after troops snatched a protester, taking him into the parliament
building and beating him severely. The troops later moved in, burning
Hundreds of people rushed to join the protest
after online video and photos showed people carrying the wounded man, his face
bruised and swollen, his head wrapped in gauze and blood dripping from his
Protester threw rocks and firebombs at
military police, who fired back with water cannons and stones from inside
parliament. Several cars were set on fire.
An American producer for Al Jazeera English,
Evan Hill, was beaten by military police and his equipment and passport
confiscated, the network reported.
The military's assault is also a potential
embarrassment to el-Ganzouri, who vowed last month that he would not use force
to break up the sit-in. El-Ganzouri had been touted as being more independent
of the military than his predecessor, whose government stepped down amid the
November protests amid criticism that it was simply a facade for the ruling
"Who has power and who is
responsible?" asked ElBaradei on his Twitter account.
Associated Press correspondent Sarah El Deeb
contributed to this report from Cairo.