Egypt witnesses day of military violence as funerals turn into anti-SCAF rallies

Ahram Online, Salma Shukrallah, Nada Hussein Rashwan, Saturday 17 Dec 2011

Tensions between demonstrators and the military escalate as martyrs' funerals march from different areas of Cairo while Tahrir is again evacuated by force; politicians condemn SCAF

Protesters throw stones at army soldiers near cabinet (Photo: Reuters/Asmaa Waguih)

Clashes that have been ongoing since Friday ended with a violent military police attack on Tahrir Square Saturday morning.

At least nine have been confirmed killed and more than 344 reported injured in the past two days.

A building belonging to the Ministry of Transport that caught fire during the clashes continued to burn as military police launched a fierce attack on Tahrir Square. Tents in the iconic square’s central island and near the Mugamaa state complex were burnt down and demonstrators were severely beaten.

The CBC satellite channel's live coverage of Tahrir aired footage of two bodies lying motionless on the ground as military police had apparently advanced and were then retreating behind the two bodies on Qasr El-Aini Street. At the same time CBC showed a young man being fiercely beaten by several military police. Eyewitnesses say the military and plain-clothed men beat protesters and medics in Tahrir’s main field hospital while clearing Tahrir Square.

Doctors from the field hospital in Omar Makram Mosque confirmed they were attacked and besieged while doctors from the Kasr El-Dobara Church said they were besieged by military with no one allowed in or out, not even the injured.

Army forces also broke into headquarters of El-Adl (Justice) Party near the Cabinet building and arrested a number of party members in the office. Various party members who had been at the Cabinet sit-in had regrouped at the party’s office, only to be attacked by the army and detained.

At roughly an hour after the Tahrir attack, the military retreated into Qasr El-Aini Street where soldiers started erecting a concrete wall blocking the street’s entrance to Tahir to protesters and traffic. Hundreds of protesters gradually gathered back in Tahrir Square.

Several political figures condemned the attacks. Presidential candidate Ayman Nour called on the military council to "leave power immediately". Abou El-Ela Madi, head of Al-Wasat Party and a member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces' (SCAF) Advisory Council resigned from the council in protest over the army’s crackdown on the Cabinet sit-in.

Meanwhile, two funerals were taking place throughout the day.

Sheikh Emad Effat, who was killed during the military’s attack on the Cabinet sit-in, was commemorated in a funeral that started at Al-Azhar Mosque and marched to the Sayeda Aisha cemeteries where he was buried.

In parallel, students from Ain Shams University attempted to march to the ministry of defence to protest the loss of their lost colleague, medical student Alaa Abd El-Hady, who was shot dead during the military’s attack on the Cabinet sit-in, but were prevented from doing so by the military police.

Both marches chanted against the SCAF and against the head of the military council Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi. Expectations are that the two funeral marches will eventually head to Tahrir Square.

Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzouri held a press conference Saturday denying that violence was used against demonstrators, adding that the military did not use live ammunition to disperse protesters.

Meanwhile, the SCAF released a statement assuring that they are investing great efforts in ending clashes between protesters and security forces by building the concrete wall between the two. The military council further assured that the families of those killed during clashes will be compensated financially and that the injured will be treated in armed forces' hospitals.

Clashes are still ongoing between the military and protesters at the entrance to Qasr Al-Aini Street, near where the army constructed its separation wall.

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