Violence erupts as army disperses Tahrir Square sit-in

Salma Shukrallah, Saturday 9 Apr 2011

Demonstrators chased from protest hub by early morning military assault but regather hours later

Tahrir on Saturday
Protesters walk past a burned truck after soldiers beat protesters with clubs and fired into the air in the pre-dawn raid in Tahrir Square, in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, April 9, 2011.(AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Many have been injured and one has been reported dead by Egypt's Ministry of Health, after Egypt's military cracked down on protestors early Saturday, aiming to disperse a mass sit-in on Tahrir Square.

Gunshots echoed around downtown between 2 and 5:30am, half an hour past curfew, as clashes continued between military and demonstrators. Witnesses say live ammunition was used, in addition to tasers, batons and teargas grenades.

At around 6am the military withdrew from the area surrounding Tahrir and protestors regathered in the square, where an army bus and truck were burning. Rocks could be seen scattered all across the intersection and parts of the ground were blood-stained, the smell of teargas still lingering.  

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has released a statement claiming the attack was targeted against thugs and members of the former-ruling National Democratic Party who they accused of 'conducting sabotage' in the square. Among those blamed for sabotage was Ibrahim Kamel, already accused of plotting the infamous 'camel attack' of 2 February, one of the bloodiest days of Egypt's 18-day revolt. The Council has since issued an order for Kamel's arrest.

In another statement, the Council said that those who continued to sit-in past curfew hours after demonstrators had left the square were "outlaws".
The military’s attempt to disperse demonstrators came after several army officers -- who some allege are only claiming to be so -- joined the Tahrir sit-in.

Youtube videos were circulating days before Egypt’s “Cleansing Friday", showing army officers calling on their counterparts to join Tahrir Square protests and condemning the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

Several sources have claimed the officers who appeared in the videos were retirees living abroad who were seeking vengeance on Egypt’s military institutions.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces mentioned in its second statement that several of those gathered in Tahrir Square past curfew claimed to be military officers.

Protestors vowed to protect the military officers who joined them overnight, but after the military succeeded in routing the crowd from the square the officers' fates remain unknown.

The armed forces have used violence to disperse protesters on Tahrir Square before. On the last occasion, the military apologised the following day, saying there had been no order to assault the protesters and calling the incident "unintentional".

On Saturday morning, thousands regathered in the square in defiance of the army, vowing to keep protesting until ousted president Hosni Mubarak is tried and the full demands of the revolution are met.

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