Protester’s death heightens tensions in Egypt

2011-11-26 20:30
Cairo - Egyptian protesters demanding that the country's military rulers cede power to a civilian administration accused security forces on Saturday of trying to intimidate them by killing a protester outside a government building in the capital Cairo.

The Interior Ministry said the 21-year-old demonstrator was "mistakenly" hit by a police convoy trying to escape a group of people who attacked it near Tahrir Square, where protesters have been staging a sit-in for over a week.

"We offer our condolences and apology to the family of the dead citizen," the ministry said in a statement broadcast on state television.

Rocks and petrol bombs were thrown at six police vehicles, which tried to escape. In their haste, one of drivers ran over the demonstrator, the Interior Ministry said.

At least 41 people were killed across Egypt this week in clashes between security personnel and protesters.

The protesters vowed Saturday to continue their sit-in to prevent Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri, who was appointed by the military council this week, from entering the cabinet building.

Al-Ganzouri previously served as prime minister in the 1990s under former president Hosny Mubarak, who stepped down in February after a wave of popular protests.

Many protesters see Al-Ganzouri as a remnant of the Mubarak regime. Opposition groups have called for a mass protest on Sunday in Tahrir Square against his appointment.

Meanwhile the new premier began consultations on forming a new cabinet.

"A new Somalia"

He warned that Egypt might become "a new Somalia" if the current situation dragged on, a group of youths said after meeting with him on Saturday.

Al-Ganzouri, a veteran economist, was also quoted as saying that many Egyptians were not pleased with the current wave of protests, which are weighing on Egypt's economy.

The protesters want Mohammed El-Baradei, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, to head the new government.

El-Baradei held talks on Saturday with the head of the military council, Hussein Tantawi, state television reported.

In Brussels, the European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she was concerned by the situation in Egypt.

"I am deeply concerned about the clashes that took place in recent days between demonstrators and security forces in Egypt," she said.

"Violence must stop and the rule of law has to be maintained. An independent investigation into these disturbing events should be carried out," Ashton added.

Earlier in the day, three US citizens detained in Cairo during the protests were released, and two of them had already left the country according to airport officials.

Luke Gates, 21, was the first to leave Cairo on a flight to Frankfurt, while Gregory Porter, 19, left for Paris. The third, Derrik Sweeney, was expected to leave early next week.

An Egyptian court ordered the release of the three, who had been studying at the American University in Cairo, after they were arrested for throwing petrol bombs at the Egyptian Interior Ministry, according to security sources.

Egyptians are to go to the polls on Monday in the first round of parliamentary elections, the first since Mubarak's overthrow.

- SAPA
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