Army and police forcefully clear Tahrir on 19 December 2011 (Mosireen media collective)
As the fierce fighting between protesters, the military and Central Security Forces entered its fourth day, at 3:50am Monday morning Egyptian security forces attacked Tahrir Square, leaving two protesters dead.
Despite video footage showing the contrary, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) claimed in a televised press conference Monday afternoon that there was no evidence of the use of violence against protesters. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton begged to differ, making separate public statements a few hours before the conference to condemn the use of violence with both calling for the security forces to respect human rights.
Last night, Mohammad Mohie Hussein, 30 who was detained with 163 others during the last four days of fighting on Qasr El-Aini Street, died from his injuries whilst in custody. In response, the lawyers working on the cases staged a sit-in, refusing to continue until those in detention received medical attention.
Just before 4am, Central Security Forces, who the day before had joined the army against the protesters, appeared at the Omar Makram Mosque entrance to Tahrir and attacked those in the square with rocks, Molotovs and occasional gunfire.
At the same time Khalid Abdalla, 31, a filmmaker on the square tweeted that the army had started “making preparations for another wall” at the junction between Sheikh Rihan Street and Qasr El-Aini Street.
Protesters initially held the CSF soldiers off with rocks and Molotov cocktails. At 4am the security forces stormed the square, firing gunshots and tear gas at protesters who fled up Talaat Harb Street and towards the Egyptian Museum. Central Security Forces took over the central roundabout in the square, ripping down the few tents and banners that had been erected yesterday afternoon.
“It was another incredibly violent push by both the police and army working together,” says Sherief, 27, a researcher and activist, who was on the square at the time, “I saw people who were suffering from tear gas, were shot with shotgun pellets and who had been hit very badly by batons. We were pushed down Talaat Harb Street, under fire."
Army and police officers then attempted to enter flats looking onto Tahrir, as they had done during raids on Saturday when they confiscated cameras and media equipment.
Ahram Online witnessed CSF personnel firing large amounts of long range tear gas canisters and bird shot at the square’s central roundabout. Mohammed, a 33-year-old photographer, filmed officers using automatic weapons. “I saw a police officer with what looked like an M16 on the midan (square) and two army officers with AK47S,” he said. “I saw them fire a few rounds directly at protesters who had retreated down the street.”
The army and police set upon any protesters who had not managed to leave the square. “I filmed five police officers and a solider drag an injured protester and beat him on the corner of Talaat Harb Street,” says Mohammed. “Later there were about 20 army and Central Security Forces beating an inert protester in the middle of the square.” Protesters reported seeing snipers on the government Mogamma complex, although this is unconfirmed. There were also plain clothed people spread amongst the uniformed forces. “We saw around 100 of them,“ Mohammad confirms.
After a continued and brutal assault of tear gas, gunfire and rocks at round 5:30am, CSF and the army began to retreat. Protesters entered from the museum side of Tahrir and Talaat Harb.
Four soldiers and police officers were captured by protesters. Groups of men made human chains around the captives to protect them from the angry crowds. One member of the military, who was badly beaten, was then treated by protesters in a nearby field hospital.
“The army built another wall in downtown on Sheikh Rihan Street, showing their inability to deal with the situation in a positive way,” adds Sherief. “Although we dealt with tear gas and guns, the people pushed them back and won a victory last night."
Video by Mosireen Media Collective