Egypt Clashes: Third Day Of Violence In Cairo Protests

12/18/2011 09:01 am ET | Updated Feb 17, 2012

* Troops and protesters battle in central Cairo

* Violence clouds election set to empower Islamists

(Adds details on late night protest, election results)

By Tamim Elyan

CAIRO, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Protesters and security
forces fought in Cairo on Sunday, the third day of clashes that
have killed 10 people and exposed rifts over the army's role as
it manages Egypt's promised transition from military to civilian
rule.

Soldiers and police manned barriers on some streets around
Tahrir Square, the hub of the uprising that ousted President
Hosni Mubarak and again convulsed by violence as protesters
demand the generals who took charge in February quit power.

Police in riot gear made brief forays beyond their barriers
and were met by a surge of protesters pelting them with rocks.
Police appeared to have taken over the frontline from soldiers.

Troops in riot gear were filmed on Saturday beating
protesters with long sticks even after they had fallen to the
ground. A Reuters picture showed two soldiers dragging a woman
lying on the ground by her shirt, exposing her underwear.

The violence has overshadowed a staggered parliamentary
election, the first free vote most Egyptians can remember, that
is set to give Islamists the biggest bloc.

Some Egyptians are enraged by the army's behaviour. Others
want to focus on voting, not street protests.

The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces will retain
power even after the lower house vote is completed in January,
but has pledged to hand over to an elected president by July.

"Down with Tantawi," about 1,000 protesters chanted late on
Sunday, referring to Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi who
heads the army council and who was Mubarak's defence minister.

Some youths had earlier hulred rocks and petrol bombs at
lines of security forces. Riot police appeared to have moved to
the frontline instead of soldiers.

An army source said 164 people had been detained.

Hundreds of protesters were in Tahrir on Sunday, although
traffic was flowing through the square coming from streets not
blocked and away from the violence. Most of the clashes have
been in streets leading off the square.

BOUTS OF VIOLENCE

One group of activists approached those hurling stones to
urge them to stop, but they refused, citing the deaths of 10
people as a reason not to "negotiate". Other activists handed
over to the army people they said were making petrol bombs.

A hardcore of activists have camped in Tahrir since a
protest against army rule on Nov. 18 that was sparked by the
army-backed cabinet's proposals to permanently shield the
military from civilian oversight in the new constitution.

Bouts of violence since then, including a flare-up last
month that killed 42, have deepened frustrations of many other
Egyptians, who want an end to protests. They see the military as
the only force capable of restoring stability.

"There are people who wait for any problem and seek to
amplify it ... The clashes won't stop. There are street children
who found shelter in Tahrir," said Ali el-Nubi, a postal worker,
adding the army should have managed the transition better.

Reuters television footage showed one soldier in a line of
charging troops firing a shot at fleeing protesters on Saturday,
though it was not clear whether he was using live rounds.

The army said it does not use live ammunition. It has also
said troops had tackled only "thugs", not protesters.

A building near Tahrir with historic archives was gutted on
Saturday by a fire. Some people tried to gather up any
remaining, partially charred documents to save them.

The Health Ministry said 10 people had been killed in the
violence since Friday and 505 were wounded, of which 384 had
been taken to hospital. Most of the deaths happened on Friday or
early Saturday. No deaths were reported on Sunday.

CONCRETE BARRIER

The latest bloodshed began after the second round of voting
last week for parliament's lower house. The staggered election
began on Nov. 28 and will end with a run-off vote on Jan. 11.

The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties repressed
in the 30-year Mubarak era have emerged as strong front-runners.

The Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party said it had
received about 40 percent of votes cast for party lists in the
second round of voting last week. The strict Salafi al-Nour
Party said its list received about 35 percent.

Despite their commanding position built, it is unclear
whether the two rival Islamist groups will form an alliance in
parliament, as they have each spoken warily of the other.

The leadership of the Brotherhood is cautious of a wholly
Islamist ruling coalition, which Egyptians from other political
trends might view as divisive and polarising in a period when
they think broader national unity is needed. Nour politicians
accuse the Brotherhood of compromising Islamic values.

(Additional reporting by Marwa Awad, Alexander Dziadosz and
Shaimaa Fayed; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Sophie Hares)

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Egypt Protest 12/18
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