By MAGGIE MICHAEL -- The Associated Press
CAIRO (AP) - Security forces fired tear gas and clashed Monday with several thousand protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square in the third straight day of violence that has killed at least 24 people and has turned into the most sustained challenge yet to the rule of Egypt's military.
Throughout the day, young activists demanding the military hand over power to a civilian government skirmished with black-clad police, hurling stones and firebombs and throwing back the tear gas canisters being fired by police into the square, which was the epicenter of the protest movement that ousted President Hosni Mubarak in February.
The night before saw an escalation of the fighting as police launched a heavy assault that tried and failed to clear protesters from the square. In a show of the ferocity of the assault, the death toll leaped from Sunday evening until Monday morning. A constant stream of injured protesters - bloodied from rubber bullets or overcome by gas - were brought into makeshift clinics set out on sidewalks around the square where volunteer doctors scrambled from patient to patient.
The eruption of violence, which began Saturday, reflects the frustration and confusion that has mired Egypt's revolution since Mubarak fell and the military stepped in to take power.
It comes only a week before Egypt is to begin the first post-Mubarak parliamentary elections, which many have hoped would be a significant landmark in a transition to democracy.
Instead, the vote has been overshadowed by mounting anger at the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which will continue to hold power even after the vote. Activists accuse the generals of acting increasingly in the same autocratic way as Mubarak's regime and fear that they will dominate the coming government, just as they have the current interim one they appointed months ago.
The military says it will hand over power only after presidential elections, which it has vaguely said will be held in late 2012 or early 2013. The protesters are demanding an immediate move to civilian rule.
"What does it mean, transfer power in 2013? It means simply that he wants to hold on to his seat," said a young protester, Mohammed Sayyed, referring to the head of the Supreme Council, Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi.
Sayyed held two rocks, ready to throw, as he took cover from tear gas in a side street off Tahrir. His head was bandaged from what he said was a rubber bullet that hit him earlier Monday.
"I will keep coming back until they kill me," he said. "The people are frustrated. Nothing changed for the better."
Timeline of events in Egypt:
A general view shows a deserted street in front of Egypt's parliament building in downtown Cairo where a man set himself alight on January 17, 2011, in an apparent copycat replay of the self-immolation of a Tunisian graduate which sparked a popular revolt, the official MENA agency said. (Getty) One month after Tunisian fruit seller Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire, Egyptian Ahmed Hashem el-Sayed followed suit in Alexandria.
An Egyptian anti-government demonstrator holds a national flag bearing the writing in Arabic, 'A salute to the makers of the Egyptian revolution and its martyrs' as they gather in Alexandria on February 6, 2011, on the 13th day of protests calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. (Getty) On January 25, Cairo saw the first massive demonstrations demanding the resignation of then-president Hosni Mubarak. Thousands of people filled Tahrir Square calling for the president to leave his position.
Egyptian strong-man and chief of intelligence Omar Suleiman in March 2011. In response to massive protests demanding regime change, Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman was sworn in as vice president on January 29, 2011. It was the first time any Egyptian held such a post in Hosni Mubarak's three-decade-long rule. (Getty)
Anti-government protester (foreground) parleys with supporters of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on an overpass near Tahrir Square on February 3, 2011, in Cairo, Egypt. (Getty) Mubarak loyalists and anti-government protesters clashed in Tahrir Square, turning peaceful protests into a battle. Hundreds were injured in the clashes.
Egyptian anti-government protesters pray at Tahrir Square in Cairo on February 4, 2011. (Getty) Despite Mubarak's efforts to meet protesters at what he deemed to be the middle ground, protests in Tahrir continued and culminated in 'day of departure' protests. Mubarak claimed that he would have liked to step down but feared chaos.
Egyptian cyberactivist and executive at Google Wael Ghonim speaks with the press at Cairo's Tahrir square on February 8, 2011 following his release late on February 7. He claims to have been held blindfolded by the Egyptian security service for 12 days. (Getty)
Egyptians celebrate for the second night in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the popular revolt that drove veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak from power, on February 12, 2011. Thousands of Egyptians were still singing and waving flags as dawn broke over a nation reborn, after a popular uprising toppled Mubarak. (Getty) In an extremely short statement, Vice President Omar Suleiman announced to Egypt that Mubarak gave up the presidency and handed over power to the army. Massive celebrations took place across Cairo.
Thousands of Egyptians wave their national flag after the Friday prayer in Cairo's Tahrir Square on February 25, 2011 to celebrate the success of their revolution and call for a new government of technocrats purged of old regime remnants. (Getty) On February 25, a 'day of rage' rippled through the Middle East, with demonstrations held in Iraq and Yemen.
New Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf addresses thousands of demonstrators in Cairo's Tahrir Square during an uprising to demand political and economic change on March 4, 2011, a day after he was named to the post. (Getty) "You are the ones to whom legitimacy belongs," Sharaf told the crowds at Tahrir after being sworn in as prime minister.
Egyptian youth show their ink-stained fingers after voting at a polling station in Cairo on March 19, 2011 as Egyptians got their first taste of democracy in a referendum to a package of constitutional changes after president Hosni Mubarak was forced to relinquish his 30-year grip on power. (Getty) A record number of voters turned up for the democratic referendum on constitutional changes. The reforms were approved with 77% of the votes.
People hold an Egyptian flag as they stand outside Sharm el-Sheikh hospital where former president Hosni Mubarak was admitted after he reportedly suffered a heart attack during questioning by prosecutors, in the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on April 13, 2011. Getty) Mubarak and two of his sons were placed in detention during an investigation into corruption and abuse. Investigators looked into allegations of corruption, squandering of public funds and the abuse of authority. Mubarak reportedly suffered a heart attack while being interrogated.
Egyptian Coptic Christians carry the coffin of a victim of sectarian clashes during a funeral in Cairo on May 8, 2011 as Egypt's military rulers warned they will use an 'iron hand' to protect national security after clashes between Muslims and Christians in the Egyptian capital killed 12 people and injured scores. (Getty) 12 people died in clashes between Muslims and Christians. 190 people were arrested.
An Egyptian man looks at a newspaper with a front page picture of ousted Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak on May 25, 2011. (Getty) State prosecutors announced that Mubarak and his two sons would face trial in a criminal court over allegations of corruption and the attacks on demonstrators in Tahrir Square. Mubarak denied all charges.
Egyptian protesters gather in Cairo's landmark Tahrir Square on July 18, 2011, to demand political change as anger grows with the military rulers over the slow pace of reform. (Getty) Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf postponed the appointment of a new cabinet. Confidence in the new government increasingly faltered as police officers accused of killing protesters were freed. Sharaf fired a number of top ministers to quell the protesters.
Egyptian riot police and armed forces move into Tahrir Square to disperse several dozen protesters who refused to leave the area. (Getty) Protesters had gathered again in Cairo's Tahrir Square and held sit-ins during the month of Ramadan.
Egyptians carry posters showing Egypt's ousted president behind a noose as they gather outside the court set up in the Cairo Police Academy. Mubarak and two of his sons stood trial in Cairo. The trial was adjourned.
An elderly man runs past flaming vehicles outside the building housing the Israeli embassy in Cairo, Friday, Sept. 9, 2011. (AP) A group of about 30 protesters broke into the Israeli embassy and dumped hundreds of documents out of the windows. Crowds tore down the embassy's security wall. Israel evacuates its ambassador.
Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi and U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta Egypt's military announced that the start of parliamentary elections would be scheduled for November 28, 2011.
Egyptian Coptic Christian protesters flee as security forces fire into the air to disperse the crowd during a demonstration in Cairo against the attack on a church in southern Egypt in October 9, 2011. (Getty) At least 24 people were killed and hundreds were wounded when a demonstration of Coptic Christians turned violent.
Holding an Egyptian national flag, U.S. actor Sean Penn, center, and Egyptian actor Khaled El-Nabawy, second left, are flanked by protesters in Tahrir Square. (AP) Thousands of Egyptians protested the decision by the country's military rulers to retain Egypt's three-decade-old emergency law. The emergency law was declared after the attack that killed former Egyptian president Anwar Al Sadat and brought Hosni Mubarak into power.
Egyptian protesters shout slogans as they gather in Cairo's Tahrir Square on October 7, 2011 during a demonstration demanding a clear transition to civilian rule from the country's interim military rulers, in power since a popular revolt in February. (Getty) On October 6, 2011, Egypt's military rulers announced plans that could keep them in power until 2013.
A general view shows Cairo's landmark Tahrir Square as Egyptian riot policeman try to disperse protesters on November 20, 2011. Deadly clashes broke out in central Cairo on November 19, 2011, as protesters called for the resignation of Egypt's military ruler Field Marshall Tantawi.
Protestors sit on a wall in Mohammed Mahmoud Street near Tahrir Square after police withdrew on November 23, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images) Thousands demanding an end to military rule packed Tahrir Square in the biggest turnout of a week of protests and violence that has killed 42 people. Egypt's military council named Kamal Ganzouri to head a national salvation cabinet.
A woman places her vote in the ballot box at a polling station in the Shubra district on the second day of voting on November 29, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images) First voting in election for the lower house.
Egyptian women protest against the military council violations and virginity tests on women, outside the State Council court in Cairo on December 27, 2011. (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images) Thousands of Egyptians rallied in Cairo and other cities to demand that the military give up power.
A supporter of former President Hosni Mubarak holds his portrait as she joins others gathered ouside the Police Accademy where his trial is being held on the outskirts of Cairo, on December 28, 2011. (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images) Mubarak's trial resumed after a two-month recess.
An Egyptian woman votes at a polling center during the second day of the third round of the elections for Egypt's parliament, in Qalyobeia, Egypt Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser) The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party won the final round of elections for Egypt's lower house. The party takes more than two-fifths of the seats, followed by an ultra-orthodox Salafi Islamist party with more than a fifth.
Former International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei pulled out of the race to become president, saying "the previous regime" is still running the country.
Newly elected speaker of the Egyptian parliament, Saad al-Katatni, of the Muslim Brotherhood, addresses the first Egyptian parliament session after the ousting of former President Hosni Mubarak, January 23, 2012 in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo by Asmma Waguih - Pool/Getty Images) Egypt's elected Lower House of parliament held its first session.
Khairat el-Shater holds a press conference in Cairo on April 9, 2012. (KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images) Ten candidates were disqualified from the presidential race, including Mubarak's former spy chief Omar Suleiman and Muslim Brotherhood politician Khairat al-Shater.
Egypt's election committee said Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's last prime minister, can run for president after all, two days after it had disqualified him.
Eleven people were killed in clashes between anti-army protesters and unidentified armed men. Clashes erupted again two days later.
Egyptians watch presidential hopeful candidate moderate Islamist, Abdelmoneim Abul Fotouh (not seen) and former Arab League General Secretary, Amr Mussa speaking during a television live debate at a public screening in Cairo on May 10, 2012. (GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/GettyImages) Former Arab League chief Amr Moussa and moderate Islamist Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh faced off in Egypt's first presidential television debate.
First round of presidential election. Unless a candidate gains more than 50 percent of the vote, the two top vote-getters will contest a run-off on June 16 and 17.
An Egyptian morgue official said the toll had climbed to 24 dead since the violence began Saturday - a jump from the toll of five dead around nightfall Sunday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the numbers. Hundreds have been injured, according to doctors in the square.
At the makeshift field clinics around Tahrir Square, medical volunteers rushed between injured protesters staggering in, or being carried in by comrades. Most of the clinics were simply a partitioned-off sections of sidewalk.
Mohammed Mustafa, a doctor at the main clinic set up inside a nearby mosque, said his site alone was treating an average of 80 cases an hour and that many of the wounded did not want to be taken to hospital because they feared arrest. He and other doctors said most of the injured had breathing and eye problems and wounds to the face from rubber bullets. A number of protesters have lost eyes from rubber bullet hits since Saturday.
During the overnight assault, police hit one of the field clinics with heavy barrages of tear gas, forcing the staff to flee, struggling to carry out the wounded. Some were moved to a nearby sidewalk outside a Hardees fast food restaurant. A video posted on social networking sites showed a soldier dragging the motionless body of a protester along the street and leaving him in a garbage-strewn section of Tahrir.
Protesters also marched Monday other cities, including thousands of students in the coastal city of Alexandria. calling for those responsible for the violence in Cairo to be punished.
The protesters' suspicions about the military were fed by a proposal issued by the military-appointed Cabinet last week that would shield the armed forces from any civilian oversight and give the generals veto power over legislation dealing with military affairs. It would also give them considerable power over the body that is to be created after the election to draft a new constitution.
At the same time, there are deep concerns the election will bring little democratic change. Many worry that stalwarts of Mubarak's ruling party could win a significant number of seats in the next parliament because the military did not ban them from running for public office as requested by activists.
Many also believe that whoever wins the election, the military will continue to wield its domination over the next government. The current civilian government has been little more than a facade for the military, activists say. It has done little to bring about economic and political reform and has stood unable - or unwilling - to act as woes have mounted in Egypt.
On Monday, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called on Egypt's rulers to listen to the protesters.
"Those in charge in Egypt would be well advised to take people's political demands and justified concerns seriously and act fast to create the right environment for the upcoming elections," Westerwelle said.
He called on all sides to refrain from violence so the upcoming election can be held in "a peaceful environment" and dispatched his Middle East envoy to Cairo.
Over recent months, security around the country has fallen apart, with increased crime, sectarian violence and tribal disputes. The economy has badly deteriorated. Because of the weekend violence, Egypt's main stock index fell for a second straight day Monday, and airport officials reported a sharp drop Monday in international passenger arrivals - a further blow to the country's crucial tourism industry, which is one of the top foreign currency earners.
One of the most prominent democracy proponents in the country, Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, called on the civilian government to resign and for a national unity government to be formed "grouping all the factions so it can begin to solve the problems of Egyptians."
"Power is now in the hands of the military council, which is not qualified to run the country, and the government, which has no authority," he said on a TV political talk show late Sunday. For the next six months, "we want see the powers of the military council given completely to a civilian, national unity government, and the military goes back to just defending the borders."
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces issued a statement Sunday night, saying it does not intend to "extend the transitional period and will not permit by any means hindering the process of democratic transition."
The military-backed Cabinet said the elections, due to start on Nov. 28, will go ahead as scheduled.
Activists have been holding occasional protests against the military in Tahrir for months, and some have triggered crackdowns by the military or police.
This weekend's violence was the most sustained fighting between the two sides. It began when security forces stormed a sit-in at Tahrir staged by several hundred protesters wounded in clashes during the 18-day uprising in January and February and frustrated by the slow pace of bringing those responsible to justice.
"The people had a revolution to live a better life, but look at everything," said 47-year-old Fayez Mohammed, his eyes red from tear gas. He pointed to rising prices, street violence and lack of accountability against members of Mubarak's regime.
"Our main demand is a date. When are you leaving power?" he said. "And don't say, 'Whenever God wills.'"
This is a developing story. Follow below for the latest updates:
Egyptian-American reporter Mona Eltahawy was reportedly beaten and arrested today in Cairo. She tweeted, "Beaten arrested in interior ministry", sparking a Twitter-wide frenzy. The U.S. State Department responded via Twitter, saying "Reports of @monaeltahawy and @pangeaworld detention very concerning. @USEmbassyCairo engaging authorities. #FreeMona"
The Associated Press has an update on the arrest of Jehane Nojaim.
AP -- An American film maker has told a colleague by phone that she was arrested by Egyptian police while documenting clashes in Cairo's Tahrir Square.
Jehane Nojaim's producer Karim Amer says she was detained and her camera was confiscated.
He said Wednesday he was separated from her after they both fled from tear gas.
Nojaim is an award-winning film maker of Egyptian ancestry, best known for her 2004 documentary "Control Room" about the pan-Arab news station, Al-Jazeera.
Clashes resumed for a fifth day in central Cairo despite a promise by the head of the ruling military council to speed transition to civilian rule, aiming for next July. Protesters demand that the military leave office now.
|@ liamstack : Arrested the moment CSF broke truce on mansur st "@hadeelalsh: American-Egyptian film maker Jehane Nojaim arrested by mil police in #Tahrir"|
The grand imam of Al-Azhar, the most important religious institution in Egypt, urged police to refrain from shooting on protesters, Al Arabiya reports.
Al-Azhar “calls on the police leadership to immediately issue orders not to point their weapons at demonstrators... no matter what the reasons,” grand imam Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb reportedly saidin a recorded address on state television.
“Al-Azhar also calls on our children in Tahrir Square and all the squares of Egypt to maintain the peaceful nature of their revolution, despite the sacrifices and difficulties they face and to protect all private and public property,” the imam added.
Al Masry Al Youm reports Egypt's Health Minister Amr Helmy acknowledged the use of live ammunition, cartridges and rubber bullets against demonstrators in Tahrir Square.
Helmy also promised to launch a committee to examine the type of teargas that was fired at the protesters. He denied the use of nerve agent in the gas, as Mohamed ElBaradei suggested in a tweet yesterday.
Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros reports from Tahrir Square that Mohamed Mahmoud street is being hit with constant rounds of tear gas. Dozens of people are injured. Tadros says the protesters are putting up bonfires to create a buffer between the demonstrators and the police.
|@ seldeeb : security firing at protesters near #tahrir: http://t.co/Jsgi1MMv via @twitpic (via @Menna_Medhat)|
The BBC's David Botti has an interesting piece on Mohamed Mahmoud street, site of most of the clashes in the past days.Botti writes:
The street is largely unknown to the outside world - overshadowed by the street's neighbor, Tahrir Square. But its role in Egypt's struggle to navigate a post-revolution era mirrors that of the nation where violence still flares and people still demand change.
Read the article here.
CNN's Ben Wedeman reporting discord between the Army and Central Security in Tahrir
|@ bencnn : It is clear there is a serious disagreement between the Army and Interior Ministry over how to deal with the battle off #Tahrir #Egypt|
|@ bencnn : Saw Army soldiers trying to stop Central Security Forces from throwing rocks, shooting teargas, but they were outnumbered. #tahrir #egypt|
The International Crisis Group weigh in on whether or not to hold Egypt's scheduled elections next week.
The group writes:
There are valid arguments as to why elections cannot be held that early given ongoing violence and instability. But a postponement – at least without a consensus among political parties – could prove far more costly. It would further fuel concern about the SCAF’s intentions, further split the opposition, and antagonise the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, which almost certainly would see this as an attempt to rob it of its expected strong showing. As for presidential elections, they should be moved up and held as soon as feasible.
via Al Masry Al Youm
The truce between protesters and police in Mohamed Mahmoud street is reportedly over. Associate Press reporter Hadeel Al Shalchi tweets there are bonfires in the street and clouds of tear gas are hanging over the area.
|@ liamstack : I cannot believe the ceasefire just ended that way. No idea where this goes from here. #tahrir #egypt|
Al Masry Al Youm reports the United Nations Human Rights Chief called for an investigation into the death of portesters on Egypt's Tahrir square.
"I urge the Egyptian authorities to end the clearly excessive use of force against protesters in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in the country, including the apparent improper use of tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay according to the newspaper.
"There should be a prompt, impartial and independent investigation, and accountability for those found responsible for the abuses that have taken place should be ensured," she added.
A great set of photos from the protests yesterday in Tahrir Square by Mosa'ab Elshamy. Check them out here.
|@ AlArabiya_Eng : Egyptian troops deployed around the Interior Ministry in Cairo, replacing riot police #Tahrir|
|@ TamerELG : On sale in #Tahrir: candied apples! In addition 2 almost anything else u can think of. Carnival atmosphere. Fighting continues on outskirts|
There appears to be a cease fire in place between protesters and security forces in Mohamed Mahmoud Street. Mohamed Mahmoud has seen the worst clashes in the past days.
|@ FRANCE24 : RT @FrancoisF24: #Tahrir Smoke by AUC library near interior min. Tear gas aimed at youths on rooftop. http://t.co/DhnodKdT|
The death toll in Egypt's clashes has risen to 37, Reuters writes. The Egyptian Health Ministry earlier said 32 people had been killed in the protests so far. 2,000 have been wounded.
Clashes in Egypt on Wednesday center around the Interior Ministry, the Associated Press reports. Police and army troops are using tear gas and rubble bullets to keep protesters from storming th ebuilding.
The protesters say they have no wish to storm the ministry but were preventing the police and army from evicting them from Tahrir by pinning them down a safe distance away from the massive plaza.
A building of the American University in Cairo is reportedly on fire.
|@ ianinegypt : To clarify the old AUC building on fire is at the corner of Mohamed Mahmoud and Falaky. #egypt #tahrir|
|@ kristenchick : Fireworks amid the tear gas on Mohamed Mahmoud St just now, outside AUC http://t.co/2QgCkSGq|
Nobel Peace Prize winner and Egyptian political leader Mohamed ElBaradei called the tear gas attack on Tahrir Square "a massacre" on twitter.
|@ ElBaradei : Tear gas with nerve agent & live ammunition being used against civilians in Tahrir. A massacre is taking place|
|@ sharifkouddous : Tear gas just hit the square forcing people to rush in all directions. Was on 9th floor balcony and was unbearable even here.|
Al Masry Al Youm uploaded this video on fighting earlier today in the streets near Tahrir Square.
Twitter is exploding with tweets about tear gas in Tahrir. A lot of people are running from the square, through the streets.Photo from tear gas on Bab el Louq Square, via @moftasa
Reuters' reports from earlier today. Footage shows Mohamed Mahmoud street, a crucial road connecting Tahrir Square and the ministry of the interior.