More than 1,000 defy Egyptian army’s order to leave Tahrir Square
CAIRO (Reuters) – More than 1,000 protesters ignored an army order to leave Cairo’s main square on Sunday, extending into a third day their calls for a quick move to civilian rule and a deeper purge of corrupt officials.
Barbed wire blocked roads intoTahrir Square, the center of the protests that toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on February 11 and a major thoroughfare in the traffic-choked capital.
Protesters cried “revolution, revolution” and brandished an effigy of Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who heads the military council now ruling Egypt and is also defense minister, as he was under Mubarak for many years.
“What is wanted is a civilian council,” read one slogan. “The people demand that the field marshal be toppled,” the protesters cried.
A dozen armored personnel carriers full of troops waited near the square but out of sight.
Egypt’s army rulers have enjoyed broad support since taking control on February 11, but complaints against them are growing — although they have promised free, fair elections for a new parliament in September.
A hard core of protesters say the army is colluding with remnants of Mubarak’s network and thwarting popular demands for more of his lieutenants to face trial.
Hundreds of thousands packed Tahrir Square on Friday in one of the biggest demonstrations since Mubarak was ousted.
Soldiers and police used tasers and batons to try to drive out the protesters. Medical sources said 13 men were wounded by gunfire and two died late on Friday.
The army backed out of the square after failing to remove all the protesters, and later announced that it would clear the square on Saturday night.
“But nothing happened,” said Ahmed el-Moqdami, 25, who said he was in a group representing the youth of Upper Egypt.
“We will continue the sit-in until our demands are met,” he said. “First of all, the field marshal must go. Mubarak must be put on trial and a civilian council must be formed for the transition period.”
The army said violence at the protest was caused by elements “that backed the counter-revolution” — an apparent reference to those loyal to Mubarak, who ruled autocratically for 30 years.
It said they were trying to “sow discord between the army and the people” and said soldiers did not use live ammunition.
There was little security presence in the square on Sunday morning. A burned-out vehicle was as a reminder of the violence and men were sweeping away rubbish.
The protesters were checking the identity of people walking into Tahrir Square but later stopped, removed some of the barbed wire and briefly allowed some cars to pass through.
“We did this so that no one can blame us for supposedly bringing normal life to a halt as has been said before,” said Mohamed Abduh, 29.
Later, 40 to 50 youths arrived in the square and began hurling rocks. Protesters chased the youths away into side streets and blocked the square to traffic again.
(Writing by Tom Pfeiffer; editing by Tim Pearce)