Extreme violence as Egypt cracks down on protests

By Muriel Kane
Sunday, November 20, 2011 19:32 EDT
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Masked Egyptian demonstrators hold their national flag as they stand next to a burning riot police vehicle in Cairo on Jan. 28.  Photo: AFP.
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Clashes between Egyptian protesters calling for an end to military rule and the army and police who are trying to put down the demonstrations have been going on for some 36 hours, and the Reuters News Agency is reporting at least ten dead and 214 wounded on Sunday alone. However, accounts of the violence from reporters on the scene that are being relayed by way of Twitter tell an even more alarming story.

As described by Reuters, “Police backed by the army used batons and teargas on Sunday to charge protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square demanding Egypt’s ruling generals hand over power, in some of the worst violence since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. … ‘The people want the toppling of the regime,’ thousands of protesters chanted before and after the charge by police backed by military officers who had stayed on the sidelines till then.

Parliamentary elections are just over a week off, but the protesters accust the army of wanting to retain power until presidential elections that might not take place for another year. Army leaders deny this charge.

“A Reuters witness saw the dead body of a 28-year-old man on Sunday evening in a makeshift clinic on the edge of Tahrir Square,” the agency reported. “Demonstrators held up spent shotgun cartridges, bullet casings and empty teargas canisters. Activists carried one protester’s corpse wrapped in a blanket around Tahrir. … Army police detained dozens of people, a witness said.”

The clashes have recently intensified, and descriptions by reporters on the scene in Cairo paint a picture of ever-increasing violence. Earlier today, reporter Jon Jensen described protesters forcing police to retreat with a barrage of rocks and Molotov cocktails. The confusion on the part of the police brought greater invention by army troops, and at that point “one phalanx of military and riot police was nearly overrun by swarms of protesters who had outflanked them from two sides.”

Within the last few hours, however, the military has begun responding with gunfire rather than tear gas, and Erin Cunningham, an independent journalist living in Cairo, reports widespread injuries. “Hospital Mo Mahmoud, never seen anything like this,” she tweets. “Nonstop ambulances, stretchers, ppl running, pushing, streaming in with supplies.” And then, “Doctor at #tahrir field hospital at Hardees says he’s seen at least 5 ppl die in past 2 hours.”

Journalist Reem Abdellatif now reports, “Going into the morgue, wkeel neyaba here, at least 30 bodies.” He later adds, “Reports of dead & injured are rising on my timeline. I have lost count.”

And Egyptian blogger Eman AbdElRahman concludes sadly, “I am out of words. Egyptian army is murdering Egyptian civilians. That’s our worst living nightmare.”

(Thanks to @occupyoakland, who has been retweeting many of these accounts.)

Photo by Mostafa Sheshtawy, uploaded to Twitpic November 20, 2011.

Muriel Kane
Muriel Kane
Muriel Kane is an associate editor at Raw Story. She joined Raw Story as a researcher in 2005, with a particular focus on the Jack Abramoff affair and other Bush administration scandals. She worked extensively with former investigative news managing editor Larisa Alexandrovna, with whom she has co-written numerous articles in addition to her own work. Prior to her association with Raw Story, she spent many years as an independent researcher and writer with a particular focus on history, literature, and contemporary social and political attitudes. Follow her on Twitter at @Muriel_Kane
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