What happened in Tahrir on Saturday morning? Eyewitnesses speak

Lina El-Wardani , Sunday 10 Apr 2011

As the dust settles on a night of clashes between the military and protesters in Tahrir Square, Ahram Online talks to eyewitnesses

Tahrir Square
An Egyptian protester stands on an army truck that was burnt by protesters early Saturday in Tahrir Square, Cairo (Photo: Reuters)

A force of around 300 soldiers swept into Tahrir Square around 3 am, tearing into a tent camp in the centre of the square where protesters had formed a human shield to protect several persons who claimed to be army officers and who had joined their demonstration in defiance of the ruling military council.

Many protesters were injured and one has been reported dead by Egypt's ministry of health due to the clashes that ensued following the military's crack down.

Eyewitnesses allege more than ten were killed and over 70 injured but Ahram Online could not confirm these reports and the final number of casulties is yet to be announced.

Gunshots echoed around downtown between two and half past five in the morning - half an hour after the end of the curfew - as clashes continued between the military and demonstrators. Witnesses say live ammunition was used, in addition to tasers, batons and teargas grenades.

Ahram Online meets eyewitnesses who give us their accounts of how they spent the violence-torn night.

Hassan, 35

Hassan’s face is disfigured by surgical stitches.

He recounts: At 2 am, the army stormed the square. Previously, when the army wanted to disperse us there would be around 100 soldiers. This time it was over a 1,000 soldiers from the army, police and special forces. They started with shooting hundreds of bullets in the air, then beating the protesters mercilessly with sticks and gun butts. Then they chased us and kept screaming at us, "go away, get out of the square, we will kill anyone remaining." They were beating us to death. We managed to escape through the side streets, then we heard the live shooting. This was at 5:30 am. They closed the streets leading to the square, at which point we gathered again and the officers were within the square and we surrounded them from side streets.

I don’t know what happened to the army officers who joined the sit-in. A friend of mine said one was stabbed by the police, but I didn't see this. What I saw were three people who were with us in the sit-in lying dead on the ground. The rest of the people, I don’t what happened to them. Many of my friends are missing.

Aida, 20

At 2 45, the army officers attacked us and started firing shots in the air everywhere in the square. They trapped us, there was no escape, they were everywhere. We ran, and they ran after us firing shots right at our backs, it was so scary. Some of the army officers who joined the sit-in were arrested, the rest escaped with us. We kept running until we reached Garden City and hid in a friend’s apartment.

Ahmed

Yesterday at 6 30 pm, army officers joined the sit-in - they looked very decent and sincere. Later at night they asked people on the internal Tahrir Square radio to stay to protect them because should they fall in the hands of the authorities, they would be in danger. So we set up a tent in the middle of the square inside the garden, and we kept the army officers inside. A few hours later, some 300 army officers broke into the square in an attempt to disperse the sit-in and detain the army officers who participated. We ran and formed a human shield around the tent where the officers were in. Then suddenly endless numbers of armed army and police soldiers attacked us and people were running, I found myself on the ground with people on top of me, which protected me from the shots and beating.

Eventually they managed to take the army officers and put them in an army tank. I was told that some managed to escape. I ran to Talaat Harb street and I hid in a building for a couple of hours and could hear a lot of gun shots and many protesters being chased by the police and army. Some were arrested and I saw clashes with stones and Molotov cocktails. I stayed in the building until 5 30 am, then left and walked home.

Motaz, 30

Yesterday at 2 am, tension was in the air and I could feel something was going to happen, so I stood alert. I was trying to ease the tension between people and the army because I didn’t want any clashes. We could see the army lining up on all the entrances leading to the square. They were holding their guns and pointing them at us, some were wearing face masks, and they were wearing three different uniforms: police, army and Special Forces. Then in a matter of minutes we found around 500 army officers and Special Forces personnel attacking us and firing intensely at us, screaming and insulting us. They pushed some girls to the ground and stepped on them while hurling abuse at them. They used everything to beat us: gun butts, bullets and battons.

We all ran and they chased us, some headed towards Garden City, others ran towards the corniche near the TV towers. I saw a boy crying alone after being beaten by the army, so I rescued him and we ran together in Garden City. I finally managed to reach his parents and he is now safe. However, they arrested my friend Ahmed and detained him in Mansheyet El-Bakry hospital, they didn’t allow me or his family to see him. As for the army officers who joined us, we managed to protect three; we ran to a building where we asked people for plain clothes into which they changed and took a taxi. The rest, we don’t know what happened to them.

Menna, 22

I was in the tent with eight army officers who joined the sit-in then the lights of the square kept going on and off, at this point we thought something bad will happen. Then we heard heavy gun fire, and we cordoned the officers to protect them. One of them broke the cordon and went to see what was going on. The moment he left the tent, he was shot and carried away. I could only get his cap and part of his shirt and saw his blood on the ground. We ran and managed to take some of the officers and hid them with us in Boulaq, we got them plain clothes and they changed. They are safe now.

They chased us all the way. My friend’s mother was shot in her knee, she is badly injured and lies now in Manshyet El-Bakry hospital. The rest of our friends disappeared and we don’t know what happened to them. Their phones are off and they are no where to be found.

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