Bloody clashes mar poll in Egypt
Protesters hurl petrol bombs at state troops
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
HARSH MEASURES: Egyptian army soldiers arrest a woman protester wearing the Niqab during clashes near Cairo’s Tahrir Square in the Egyptian capital.