CAIRO — One person was killed and more than 130 injured, including 32 military police, in a clash Friday with pro-democracy protesters in downtown Cairo, the Egyptian Health Ministry said.
It was the worst violence since the start of parliamentary voting last month, the country’s first elections since President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in February. Egypt has since been under the authority of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, causing growing frustration among activists who are demanding a swift handover to civilian rule.
Witnesses said Friday’s violence began before dawn when a protester who had been taking part in a sit-in outside Egypt’s Cabinet was detained and severely beaten.
“One of our fellow activists was called for and arrested by military police,” said Yasser Waleed, who was taking part in the sit-in. “Later on we found out that they released him in a state nearing death. He was taken to (a) hospital and came back in a very bad condition.”
Images posted online showed the man, identified as Aboudi Ibrahim, with his face badly bruised, his eyes swollen shut and his head wrapped in bandages. The news infuriated the protesters, some of whom hurled stones and gasoline bombs at military police.
Troops moved in to break up the sit-in, shooting blank rounds and setting fire to the tents where scores of protesters had been camped out for three weeks, witnesses said.
The protesters retreated into a road leading to Tahrir Square, which was the center of the popular uprising that toppled Mubarak. Troops wielding truncheons repeatedly charged the crowd, which grew to hundreds as the day wore on, witnesses said. Rocks were also thrown at the protesters by unidentified assailants on the roof of the Cabinet headquarters.
“It’s the same old story,” said Ahmed Galal, who works at a mobile phone shop. “We come for a peaceful sit-in and eventually they forcibly disperse it. Only a few days ago, the prime minister said that no peaceful protester will be harmed and now we have this. … That’s why we don’t trust either the government or SCAF anymore. This ruling army has to go now.”
Local media and medical sources said at least 18 of those injured were struck by gunfire. Activists said about 20 demonstrators were briefly detained and beaten. There was no immediate comment from military authorities.
By Friday night, military police reduced their presence in the area, but sporadic clashes continued between protesters and unidentified pro-government counter-protestors, who threw rocks and gasoline bombs from the roof of the cabinet building. According to state media, some local residents of the area also confronted protestors in an attempt to disperse the sit-in.
Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri declined comment on the violence. But two members of a recently formed advisory council, created by the military to provide advice on the new constitution, quit in protest.
Presidential hopeful Mohamed ElBaradei condemned the events and the use of force in comments on his Twitter account.
More than 40 people were killed during days of unrest ahead of the parliamentary election, but the violence had dissipated as voting got under way. A third and final round is scheduled for January, and a presidential election is to be held next year.
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