Bloody clashes mar poll in Egypt

Pro­test­ers hurl petrol bombs at state troops

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD -

CAIRO: Egyp­tian troops clashed with petrol bombthrow­ing pro­test­ers against mil­i­tary rule in Cairo yes­ter­day as the worst vi­o­lence in a month over­shad­owed the count in the sec­ond phase of a land­mark gen­eral elec­tion.

Sev­eral peo­ple were wounded as the soldiers re­peat­edly at­tempted to break up a month- old sit- in out­side the cabi­net’s of­fices de­mand­ing an im­me­di­ate tran­si­tion to civil­ian con­trol, AFP cor­re­spon­dents and wit­nesses said.

The clashes were the blood­i­est since five days of protests in Novem­ber killed more than 40 peo­ple just be­fore the first stage of Egypt’s first par­lia­men­tary elec­tions since the over­throw of vet­eran pres­i­dent Hosni Mubarak in Fe­bru­ary.

The vi­o­lence erupted af­ter a blood­ied pro­tester said he had been ar­rested by soldiers and beaten up, in­fu­ri­at­ing his com­rades who be­gan throw­ing stones at the soldiers.

Troops re­sponded by fir­ing shots in the air and us­ing water can­non, be­fore throw­ing stones back at pro­test­ers from the roof of the par­lia­ment build­ing.

Pro­test­ers threw stones and petrol bombs through the morn­ing with troops and mil­i­tary po­lice re­peat­edly charg­ing the crowd.

“The peo­ple de­mand the ex­e­cu­tion of the field mar­shal,” they chanted in ref­er­ence to Field Mar­shal Hus­sein Tantawi, the head of the Supreme Coun­cil of the Armed Forces, which took over fol­low­ing Mubarak’s over­throw.

In the af­ter­noon, mil­i­tary po­lice pulled back to a side street but de­mon­stra­tors were pelted with stones by men in plain clothes from a govern­ment build­ing. They re­sponded by smash­ing the win­dows of trans­port min­istry of­fices.

An AFP correspondent saw blood­ied pro­test­ers be­ing car­ried away by com­rades and a string of ar­rests be­ing made.

Lead­ing ac­tivist Nur Nur, son of former pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Ay­man Nur, emerged from be­hind the mil­i­tary po­lice cor­don, limp­ing and with a cut and large bruise to his head.

“When the mil­i­tary po­lice rushed us, a girl be­hind me tripped up and fell,” he said.

“I stopped to help her and the soldiers beat us with sticks for about two min­utes and then dragged us off into the par­lia­ment build­ing.”

The pro­test­ers have been camped out­side the cabi­net’s of­fices since Novem­ber 25, when they branched off from larger demon­stra­tions in nearby Tahrir Square, nerve cen­tre of the 18 days of protests that led to Mubarak’s oust­ing.

They ob­jected to the mil­i­tary’s ap­point­ment of a new care­taker prime min­is­ter, call­ing on the rul­ing gen­er­als to trans­fer power fully to a civil­ian govern­ment.

The mil­i­tary has said it will only step down once a pres­i­dent has been elected by the end of June next year at the end of pro­tracted phased polls.

The count was un­der way yes­ter­day in the sec­ond stage of elec­tions to the lower house of par­lia­ment. A third stage next month will be fol­lowed by a sim­i­lar three-phase vote to the up­per house be­fore the pres­i­den­tial vote.

As in the first phase last month, Is­lamist par­ties were lead­ing lib­er­als, ac­cord­ing to ini­tial re­sults from the count.

The flag­ship state- owned daily Al- Ahram re­ported a close race be­tween the two main Is­lamist par­ties, the Mus­lim Brother­hood’s Free­dom and Jus­tice Party and ul­tra­con­ser­va­tive Salafist move­ment’s Al-nur. – SAPA-AFP

PIC­TURE: AP

HARSH MEA­SURES: Egyp­tian army soldiers ar­rest a wo­man pro­tester wear­ing the Niqab dur­ing clashes near Cairo’s Tahrir Square in the Egyp­tian cap­i­tal.

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