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SCAF, Interior Ministry blame '3rd party' for Tahrir martyrs

While officials offer condolences to families of martyrs, both the ministry of interior and the army deny they are responsible for fallen protesters

Ahram Online , Thursday 24 Nov 2011
Tahrir Square
Protesters take cover from tear gas fired by riot police during clashes in a side street near Tahrir Square in Cairo November 23, 2011. (Photo: Reuters)

As the ongoing Tahrir Square crisis enters its sixth day, no one wants to take blame for the 36 protesters who lay dead and the more than a thousand who have been injured in the square.

While officials have repeatedly stated their regret for the losses, it appears that no one is being held to account for the violence.

Although protesters have been subject to tear gas and live ammunition in recent days, neither the military nor the police have admitted responsibility.

In a statement issued on Wednesday by Egypt’s ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the council denied that the army had used teargas against protesters. On Thursday, the SCAF released another statement in which it vowed to bring those responsible for the violence to justice.

“The SCAF is extremely sorry for the fallen martyrs of the children of Egypt in the latest incidents in Tahrir Square,” the statement read. “The SCAF offers its condolences to the families of martyrs throughout Egypt.”

While satellite television channels showed military personnel and the interior ministry’s Central Security Forces clearing Tahrir Square on Sunday, SCAF member Hamdy Badeen asserted that military police had not entered the square “since the last Eid El-Fitr” holiday in early September. He refuted claims by some television channels that military police had instigated the violence to sow mistrust between the Egyptian people and armed forces.

In statements to Egyptian state television, Badeen said that military personnel now deployed near the square were only there to protect the nearby interior ministry building.

Interior Minister Mansour El-Eisawy, for his part, while admitting that police had used gas to disperse protesters, denied on state television on Wednesday that police had shot at protesters with either rubber bullets or live rounds. In response to accusations that police were using internationally-banned chemicals against protesters, El-Eissawy insisted such claims were false and that he had sent a sample of the substance in question to the health ministry for analysis.  

El-Eissawy went on to say that “unknown individuals” had been firing on protesters in downtown Cairo from the rooftops of surrounding buildings. He told Al-Hayat satellite channel that the ministry had not ordered police to fire on protesters unless the latter attempted to storm the ministry building. He also denied news published in opposition daily Al-Wafd that Prime Minister Essam Sharaf had issued orders to break up the Tahrir Square sit-in.   

Commenting on videos circulating online showing protesters detaining an alleged state security officer found in the square carrying a firearm, El-Eissawy said that the man was a retired officer. As for a video screened on Al Jazeera showing state security and military personnel throwing a slain protester in a garbage pile, El-Eissawy said they had simply been “setting the body aside.”

Protestors, meanwhile, continue to prepare for a million man march on Friday, blame both the military and police for the carnage, and demand that the SCAF immediately hand over executive authority to a civilian government and that the interior ministry be radically restructured.

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