Anti-military protesters, army clashes in Cairo
CAIRO EGYPTIAN troops fired tear gas at anti-military protesters on Friday and both sides hurled rocks at each other, as tensions spiraled ahead of landmark presidential elections.
A blanket of thick smoke engulfed Abbassiya square near the defence ministry in Cairo, days after deadly clashes there that prompted Friday’s demonstration.
Bleeding protesters were ferried away by motorbike and ambulances rushed to the scene, an AFP reporter said.
State television showed several soldiers wounded.
The clashes began when some protesters threw rocks at the military police, prompting troops to respond with water cannon and then eventually tear gas.
Military police, holding their shields in one hand, picked up rocks from the ground and hurled them back at the protesters, who used metal sheets from nearby construction sites to protect themselves.
Several thousand secular and Islamist protesters had gathered in Abbassiya, some marching there from Cairo’s Tahrir Square, to denounce the ruling military council that took power when Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising last year.
Friday’s protest comes just three weeks before the country’s first post-revolt presidential election, after which the ruling military is to hand power to civilian rule.
But protesters say they fear the elections will be rigged in favour of a pro-military candidate.
Others say they do not trust the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to fully hand power to civilian rule.
“We are here to end SCAF rule. We don’t trust them.
SCAF is following Mubarak’s example, and we want to protect the revolution,” said Mohammed Badawi, a member of the Coalition of Revolution Youth, who came from the canal city of Ismailiya.
Another protester from the Nile Delta city of Mansura, Ahmed Gamal, said he feared the upcoming elections will be “forged.” “After the revolution, there should be an election committee with integrity. Instead they brought a corrupt one,” the 22-year-old told AFP.
The protest comes two days after deadly clashes in the Abbassiya neighbourhood which left at least nine people dead according to the health ministry, though field medics say more died.
On Wednesday, unknown attackers stormed a sit-in near the defence ministry by supporters of Salafist politician Hazem Abu Ismail, who was recently disqualified from the presidential race.
Other candidates in the race include former Arab League chief Amr Mussa and Mubarak’s last prime minister Ahmed Shafiq. The powerful Muslim Brotherhood has fielded the head of its political arm, Mohammed Mursi whose main Islamist rival is Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, a former Brotherhood member.
In Abbassiya, protester Mohammed Eid unbuttons his shirt to reveal a pro-Abu Ismail T-shirt.