Reconstructing Maspero's Bloody Sunday: An Ahram Online investigation - Part 2

Nada Hussein Rashwan, Wednesday 2 Nov 2011

The second part of Ahram Online's investigation follows the clashes as protesters moved away from the Maspero building into surrounding areas

Map of Maspero district, Cairo

The second and final part of the timeline of the events of 9 October attempts to document the transition of clashes from the area outside Maspero, the state television and radio building, into Downtown Cairo, starting at the point where protesters began escaping the vicinity of Maspero.

In this section, events are recounted based on a compilation of eyewitness accounts, Ahram Online reporters’ accounts, and live tweets that date from that night. Quoted sections that are not specifically timed have been placed in the timeline within a 30-minuate window of accuracy, according to the logical flow of events.

Following the violence that broke out in front of the Maspero building, when a protest by primarily Coptic Christians was met with violence by the army guarding the building, the clashes spread into nearby Abdel Moniem Riad Square, as well as other areas close by including El-Galaa Street, the area outside Tahrir Square from the Egyptian Museum entrance, Ramsis Hilton Street, and 6 October Bridge.

Recap - 7:00–8:00pm: 

Starting at around 7pm, protesters begin to escape the Maspero area after a number had been killed.

Approx. 7:00pm: "Protesters were dispersed [from Maspero after the APCs ran over some protesters] and most fled to the area behind the bridge, in front of the Ramsis Hilton." Mohand Aborehab (testimony).

7:00-7:15pm: Youth from the Al-Masry Al-Horr (Free Egyptian) movement started preparing a [basic] field clinic near the El-Gouna [bus company] office [next to Ramsis Hilton]." Ahmed Ibrahim (testimony).

Approx. 7:15pm: Army forces came after the protesters towards Abdel Moniem Riad Square...Some of the troops and tanks had come up onto the bridge [moving from in front of Maspero].” Mohand Aborehab (testimony).

7:15-7:30pm: "The back entrance to the Hilton was closed. There were injured people inside, and I believe there was someone either unconscious or dead. [It was showing] through the glass. I filmed the injured for a while until I saw some protestors, grabbing what I think was a police brigadier –not sure of his rank- and beating him viciously. Some people hid him inside the hotel through a side entrance." Ahmed Mustafa (testimony).

7:30 – 8:00pm:Central Security Forces begin their involvement in the area by first deploying along the 6 October Bridge’s Corniche exit, opposite Maspero, on the way to Abdel Moniem Riad Square. Infiltrators are believed to be appearing among the protesters.

7:44pm: State Television's Almasreya: "The injured in Maspero confirm the possession of Coptic protesters of live ammunition." State TV news bulletin.

”Suddenly two people came out [of a building near the mall], being beaten severely by people carrying sticks. Military police and central security were joining in and dragging one of them through the street. The second person was being protected from the beating by a bearded man who kept saying, 'These are our brothers' and he nearly ended up in their hands himself." Mohannad Galal (testimony).

"Central Security Forces (CSF) have completely blocked off the 6 October Bridge. I found people carrying injured protesters back from Maspero and behind them I saw groups running with them. As soon as somebody started running everyone began running. It was a state of panic." Nada El-Kouny, Ahram Online reporter.

"People started to break the pavement and carry rocks and throw them [broken bricks] at the CSF who wanted to go down the bridge. Thugs started appearing from behind the [CSF], and at the same time a demonstration had gathered up and started chanting against the Field Marshal and SCAF and cheering ‘Muslims and Christians are one hand’. A sheikh carrying a cross was lifted up [by protesters]. People coming from the Hilton's street were also chanting the same." Ahmed Ibrahim (testimony).

"Rioters and thugs [near the Ramsis Hilton close to Abdel Moniem Riad Square] with the military police, chanting ‘the army and the people are one hand' and ‘God is great’. Military police were chanting back ‘God is great’ and banging on their shields while chanting. [Thugs and military police] were advancing in the direction of Tahrir. CSF vehicles joined them, and a man emerged from the top of it carrying a tear gas gun, saying: ‘Our work here is done, the CSF should withdraw.’” Mohannad Galal (testimony).

7:54pm: "The demonstrations around me were scattered, some were at the [Egyptian] Museum, others at El-Galaa Street, others underneath the bridge, but most of them were around the statue [in Abdel Moniem Riad Square]." Maged Butter (testimony).


In this period, infiltrators apparently start to sabotage the crowd that has been attempting to re-form and start another march. Clashes started between the infiltrators (who, according to eyewitnesses, appeared from behind the lines of the army and the Central Security Forces) and protesters. Around this time, military police start arresting protesters.

"There was a rock-throwing battle between some people on our side, and some people coming from Ramsis Hilton towards Tahrir. The rock throwing [on the other side] was done by army soldiers and civilians." Hani Bushra (testimony).

"A fire engine arrived from the side of the Hilton heading towards Abdel Moniem Riad Square. The driver was driving hysterically and he could have easily hit anyone. We scattered and stood on the pavements on the right and left off the street. Once the fire engine got close to the statue it stopped and mounted the pavement. The driver was hurt and the car was leaning sideways. By the time I got there the driver was gone, I wasn’t able to tell what exactly happened to him. People gathered around the car and a lot of them wanted to set fire to it, but a bunch of young people climbed on top of it and started calming people down. At the same time we started hearing tear gas bombs being fired. We could already smell the tear gas from where we were.” Maged Butter (testimony).

8:09pm: People throwing rocks like crazy at the fire engine in Abdel Moniem Riad. Maged Butter (tweet)..

8:10pm: "Driver [is] hit and people smashing the car." (tweet).

8:16pm: “Thugs with police attacking people with rocks and teargas pushing protesters back to Tahrir and Ramsis.” Maged Butter (tweet).

8:20pm: "There was a lot of commotion and people began running wildly and rocks began flying all around us. People began running into Ramsis while others continued to run down El-Galaa Street [parallel to Abdel Moniem Riad Square], under the 6 October Bridge." Nada El-Kouny.

“I saw a couple of figures [thugs] wielding swords and banging the steel shutters with their swords – making a lot of noise. Their numbers seemed to increase and they pushed us further down El-Galaa Street. More tear gas was shot at us from the Corniche side." Nada El-Kouny.

8:25pm: Thugs and army soldiers throwing rocks and Molotov [cocktails] at us in Abdel Moniem Riad Square. Maged Butter (tweet).

"Military police began arresting people at random around Abdel Moniem Riad Square. Meanwhile they had also cordoned off a large area in front of the Egyptian Museum." Mai Shaheen, Ahram Online photojournalist.

8:26pm: Someone spraying water from one of the fire truck's [water] pipes against the thugs. Maged Butter (testimony - tweet).

8:30pm: "At around this time the army began shooting tear gas into Tahrir Square." Mai Shaheen.

Around 8:30pm: “The army almost disappeared from Abdel Moniem Riad Square, and CSF took the lead.” Mai Shaheen.


Rock-throwing battle continues around Abdel Moniem Riad Square. Push-and-pulls between protesters and security forces start as protesters are forced to scatter.  

“Towards Hilton Ramsis, five vehicles full of CSF soldiers suddenly showed up. People began to pelt them with rocks, destroying the windshields, and thus causing the drivers of the vehicles to panic, thereby hitting into each other and into the sides of the road. I and some other people were trying to calm people down into not attacking the vehicles but the people were angry." Hani Bushra (testimony).

8:33pm: Protesters set up a line of fire [burning car tires] between us and the thugs/army. Maged Butter (tweet).

8:46pm: Army with thugs attacking. Rock [throwing] war. Maged Butter (tweet).

8:54pm: A copt crying Allahu Akbar (God is great) and attacking [back] the thugs. Maged Butter (tweet).

9:00pm: I can’t see army or police now. Mostly civilians. Maged Butter (tweet).

“A group of people had started coming down from the bridge. They consisted of people in civilian clothing first, and on the side there was a lot of CSF soldiers; in the middle there was a CSF truck firing tear gas bombs in the direction of El-Galaa Street at the people.” Maged Butter (testimony).


Abdel Moniem Riad Square:

At this point, many eyewitnesses who were present at the clashes confirm that some of the infiltrators, who were first chanting against Christians as they attacked the protesters, suddenly folded into the crowd and started chanting solidarity slogans as the newly-formed march began to return to Maspero. It is important to note that protesters who were still at Maspero said in their own accounts that those infiltrators, who hid their weapons in order to enter the Maspero area, were protected by the armed forces. At the same time, some of the residents in the neighbouring areas started taking to the streets following what they had heard on state television that the Coptic protesters were armed and that they had killed and injured military soldiers.

9:04pm: "…And suddenly those who were attacking us [in Abdel Moniem Riad] joined us and we're now chanting "One Hand”!!"  Maged Butter (tweet).

"The revolutionaries and the thugs came back [from Abdel Moniem Riad Square to Maspero] beside each other in a strange scene; no one understood how it happened. I found a man in a mask, thick-set, wearing all black, carrying what looked like a rifle in his hand, and around him were commanders of the police and some civilians carrying sticks. I didn’t understand why they were moving around with him.” Mohannad Galal (testimony).

Ramsis Hilton area:

"A group of simple-looking, plain-clothed youth appeared from behind us holding swords and chanting against Christians. When we talked to them, we figured out they were from the near district of Boulaq. They told us they'd heard on [State] TV that the Christian protesters are armed and they are attacking the army, and so they went down to defend the army soldiers from them. One of them kept asking us, ‘Where are the Christians' weapons [we heard of]?’ " Lobna Darwish (testimony).


Protesters around Abdel Moniem Riad Square start to disperse and hide from the random arrests. Accounts on the situation in Tahrir are scarce and vague due to the army's blockade of all entrances of the Square which many protesters feared was an ambush.

9:38pm: "CSF vehicles deployed in Tahrir." Maged Butter (tweet).

“Military forces were everywhere [in Tahrir] and blocking all the entrances to the Square, but they were still letting people in. I saw them beating someone they caught, and took his memory card because he was taking pictures when they had threatened to punish whoever would do so. Some people were sitting in the Square's central circle.” Ahmed Mustafa (tweet).


By now many of the dispersed protesters have moved to the Coptic Hospital in Ramsis Street, where the dead and injured protesters have been transferred. There are some accounts that thugs or misinformed residents of the area now attempted to attack those who were standing in front of the hospital.

One eyewitness mentioned, in the press conference on 13 October which recorded testimonies, that some residents of Tahrir Square had heard of the violence and they came down to the street with their personal weapons to defend their shops and cars in case they were attacked. The eyewitness recounts that protesters attempted to convince property owners that what they heard on state television is false and that the protest was peaceful, and by the time protesters gathered around property owners to clarify the situation, the army raided the crowd indiscriminately and started chasing protesters down the small streets leading from Tahrir. This could account for the army’s allegations that protesters were armed, as property owners mingled indiscriminately with protesters at this point.

Around 1am:

The soldiers went into downtown after the protesters [attempting to run away from beating and arrests] – shooting blanks and tear gas. They chased after us until they reached El-Borsa coffee shop [in Downtown] and they were beating whoever was in front of them.” Ragy El-Kashef (testimony).


From 2am-7am, curfew was enforced that night. It was announced on state television at around midnight.

By that time, the violence had started to wind down, bringing the night, but not the case, to an end.

The Cabinet's fact-finding committee investigation is underway, and the results were due to be announced within two to three weeks of the start of its work, the week following the incident.

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