Egyptian Military Clashes With Protesters In Tahrir Square
Protesters had returned to Tahrir Square in Cairo yesterday, in part to recapture the spirit of February’s protests and in part to demand that former President Hosni Mubarak be put on trial. This time, though, the military isn’t really on their side:
Hundreds of protesters demanding that Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian president, be put on trial for alleged corruption, have retaken Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square, hours after security forces attempted to disperse them, in a clash that killed at least one person.
By 7am (local time) on Saturday morning, army and central security troops appeared to have withdrawn, leaving the square to protesters who set vehicles on fire and began setting up barricades made of furniture and left-behind barbed wire.
“The number of protesters remaining in the square is swelling, as news [of the clashes] spreads through the city,” reported Mike Hanna, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Cairo.
Hundreds of army and security forces troops had stormed the square earlier, in an attempt to disperse the thousands of protesters.
In scenes reminiscent of the violent 18-day uprising that ousted longtime President Mubarak in February, protesters and riot police threw rocks at each other, and security forces responded by firing tear gas, witnesses said.
Egypt’s health ministry said that one person was killed and 71 injured after those clashes. The military had earlier denied that anyone was hurt or killed in the raid of the square.
Groups of protesters rallying around the southeast corner of the square threw bottles and possibly petrol firebombs at riot police, Michelle May, a freelance journalist, told Al Jazeera.
One of the main roads running east from Tahrir Square towards Talaat Harb Square was virtually empty, and gunfire seemed to have subsided, a witness said.
The military in a statement released through the state MENA news agency, said that security forces were attempting to enforce a 2am to 5am (local time) curfew.
“Elements from the interior ministry along with some noble citizens confronted the riotous actions and enforced the curfew without any losses,” the statement read. “The armed forces stress that they will not tolerate any acts of rioting or any act that harms the interest of the country and the people.”
It’s unclear is we’re seeing the beginning of something new in Egypt, or simply a reflection of the fact that the military’s primary interest is in maintaining order, which doesn’t always mean siding with the protesters.