EGYPT: More than 200 injured in protest march toward military headquarters
More than 200 people were injured Saturday in Cairo when antigovernment protesters clashed with armed civilians and thugs as demonstrators attempted to march on the Ministry of Defense in the third week of rallies against the ruling military council.
The violence occurred when about 3,000 protesters left their sit-in at Tahrir Square and began marching toward the headquarters of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. The march followed promises made in a nationally televised speech by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi that the ruling generals "are committed to pressing ahead in turning Egypt into a modern civilian state."
The people "want to bring down the field marshal!” protesters chanted. Military police strung out barbed-wire barricades to block marchers from reaching the Defense Ministry. Violence erupted when demonstrators, who were shouting "Peaceful! Peaceful!" were attacked by men hurling stones and Molotov cocktails. Armed thugs have often attacked protesters.
Police officers fired blanks into the air in an attempt to disperse the crowds, as some protesters tried to escape and return to Tahrir. A military source told the state news agency MENA that security officers did not use force against protesters. Witnesses similarly confirmed that the military police’s only role was to bar demonstrators from marching toward SCAF’s headquarters.
Hours earlier, Tantawi addressed Egyptians in a speech marking the 69th anniversary of the 1952 revolution that overthrew King Farouk in a bloodless coup. During his speech, Tantawi said that the SCAF remains committed to free elections and installing democracy. The speech was Tantawi’s first since the SCAF took over the country after the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak on Feb.11.
A statement issued by the SCAF blamed the April 6th Youth Movement, one of the groups that took part in the uprising against Mubarak, for stirring divisions between the military and the people by continuing protests and sit-ins.
-- Amro Hassan in Cairo
Photo: Protesters in front of barbed wire set up by military police. Credit: Agence France-Presse