Egypt Clashes: Third Day Of Violence In Cairo Protests
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.
"The army council must go," said a protester with a bandaged head, who gave his name as Mohamed, after another night of clashes between soldiers and activists who had stayed in Tahrir.
Nearby, dozens of youths hurled rocks at security forces behind a barrier of barbed wire and metal sheets. 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.
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.
BOUTS OF VIOLENCE
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.
Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri, 78, said on Saturday 30 security guards outside parliament had been hurt and 18 people wounded by gunshots. He blamed violence on youths and said the violence was an "attack on the revolution."
The army says it has sought to separate protesters and troops to quell the violence. On one of the main streets leading from Tahrir to the cabinet and parliament, where violence has been fiercest, the army has erected a wall of concrete blocks.
State media have given conflicting accounts of what sparked the violence. They quoted some people saying a man went into the parliament compound to retrieve a mis-kicked football, but was harassed and beaten by police and guards. Others said the man had prompted scuffles by trying to set up camp in the compound.
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.
(Additional reporting by Marwa Awad, Alexander Dziadosz and; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Sophie Hares)