CAIRO --Central Cairo had been cleared Saturday of stone-throwing protesters after several days of clashes with police over a video that insulted the Muslim prophet Mohammed and fanned riots across the Islamic world.
Police cleared Cairo’s Tahrir Square in the early morning after weathering four turbulent days where angry crowds threatened to burn the U.S. Embassy and were held off with barricades and tear gas after initial protests Tuesday in which young men scaled the wall of the site and tore down the American flag.
The spectacle of men standing defiantly on the embassy walls helped spark a similar demonstration Tuesday in Libya, where U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed in a militant group’s attack, and later in the week in Yemen, Sudan and Tunisia, where embassies were overrun by looters, who torched cars and threw petrol bombs. Friday prayers ignited anti-U.S. protests in close to 20 countries.
At least 54 people have been detained in connection with the violence in Cairo, Egypt's state news agency reported Saturday.
The nearly week-long Egyptian protest, first called for by ultra-conservative Salafists, drew religious Islamists and ordinary protesters, as well as youth resentful of police. Many had not even seen the video, but had a palpable resentment over the lack of opportunity in their society even after a popular uprising had swept away the three-decade reign of Hosni Mubarak. The economic desperation and rudderless political direction has proved a combustible mixture as groups of young men have shown themselves eager to fight authority.
Saturday afternoon in Tahrir Square provocative signs had been torn down and more than six police trucks were parked in different locations, with security officers in civilian clothes waiting inside trucks in case disturbances occurred. The stench of tear gas lingered on side streets leading to the U.S. Embassy, causing pedestrians to wince and cover their mouths.
-- Ned Parker and Reem Abdellatif
Photo: Egyptian police detain a man as they clear Tahrir Square in Cairo. Credit: Mohammed Asad / AP Photo