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2 Killed, Over 600 Wounded in Egypt Street Protests

Clashes continue between protestors, police after two deaths in Egypt

CAIRO, Nov. 20, 2011 (Xinhua) --

Clashes continued early Sunday morning between the security forces and protestors in the Egyptian capital of Cairo, after two died from shots and nearly 1,000 were injured in similar clashes across the country.

Dozens of protestors tried to storm into the Interior Ministry building near the Tahrir Square in central Cairo, but were stopped by riot police stationed around the building. Security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd of protestors.

All shops near the square have been closed.

A 23-year-old protestor in Cairo and another 16-year-old boy in Alexandria, Egypt's second largest city, were shot dead on Saturday, health ministry officials said.

Other cities like Suez also witnessed similar clashes.

The latest round of clashes broke out on Saturday in Cairo after military police tried to clear the Tahrir Square as dozens of protestors continued their sit-in after Friday's mass protest with the participation of tens of thousands. Police vans were set on fire, and protestors threw stones at them.

On Sunday, the Egyptian government held an emergency meeting under Prime Minister Essam Sharaf to assess the current situation in the country. The meeting focused on the means of restoring security and stability of Egypt's streets and the measures to secure the polling stations of the first stage of the parliamentary elections due to start on Nov. 28.

The military council has stressed in a statement issued on Sunday that the parliamentary elections will be held as planned.

2 Killed, Over 600 Wounded in Egypt Street Protests

Ma'an, 20/11/2011 09:33 Egyptian soldiers (AFP/Khaled Desouki, File) CAIRO (Reuters) --

Clashes erupted between protesters and police in Cairo and two other Egyptian cities, killing two people and wounding hundreds in the biggest security challenge yet for the country's ruling generals days before scheduled elections.

In scenes reminiscent of the 18-day uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak from three decades of power in February, hundreds of youths chanted "The people want to topple the regime" in central Cairo on Saturday as they rushed towards riot police, who fired rubber bullets and tear gas.

Witnesses said the clashes appeared to have subsided early on Sunday.

During Saturday's clashes, protesters broke chunks of cement from pavements and hurled them at police, who lost control of Cairo's landmark Tahrir Square twice in the day.

A blaze broke out around midnight at the huge Mogamma state administration building overlooking Tahrir.

As police fired round after round of tear gas at protesters near the interior ministry, closer to Tahrir demonstrators laid sheets of metal to block roads into the square.

"I tell you do not leave the square. This square will lead the way from now on," presidential candidate Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, a hardline Islamist, told a group of protesters early on Sunday. "Tomorrow the whole of Egypt will follow your lead."

State news agency MENA quoted the health ministry's spokesman as saying 676 people had been hurt in Cairo and that Ahmed Mahmoud, a 23-year-old demonstrator, died in hospital. MENA reported another death in Egypt's second city Alexandria.

Staggered voting is due to begin on Nov. 28 but could be disrupted if violence spreads.

The vote is being overshadowed by a row between political parties and the government over ground rules for a draft constitution that could leave the army free of civilian control.

The army won popular backing during Mubarak's overthrow for maintaining order and pledging to hand power to an elected government, but support has ebbed over its use of military trials for civilians and suspicion that it wants to continue to wield the levers of power after a new government is sworn in.

A security official said on Saturday police had used lawful methods to deal with "troublemakers". Protesters said they were incensed by brutal police tactics to break up a peaceful sit-in.

The army stayed away from the fighting.

Unrest in Alexandria, Suez

About 5,000 protesters had converged on Tahrir on Saturday afternoon when police tried to evict the remnants of a 50,000-strong demonstration a day earlier, mostly by Islamists demanding the departure of the military.

Buildings and two cars in the square were set on fire, witnesses said. A third vehicle close to the Arab League's headquarters was also burned.

Police beat the protesters, most of whom were not Islamists, with batons and fired tear gas to regain control of Tahrir, only to retreat after night fell.

Protests erupted in other cities. About 800 people gathered in front of the security directorate in Egypt's second city Alexandria and chanted: "Interior Ministry officials are thugs."

A witness heard repeated gunfire in the area. It was not clear whether the shots were live bullets. One person covered in blood was carried off to hospital on a motorcycle.

About 1,000 gathered outside a police station in the eastern city of Suez, threw stones at it and tried to force their way in. Police fired tear gas and shot into the air.

Protesters in Suez tore down banners of former members of Mubarak's disbanded party who are running in the election.

Liberal groups are dismayed by the military trials of thousands of civilians and the army's failure to scrap a hated emergency law.

Islamists eying a strong showing in the next parliament suspect the army council wants to curtail their influence and is maneuvering to stay in power from behind the scenes.

Muslim Brotherhood

Analysts say Islamists could win 40 percent of parliament seats, with a big portion going to the Muslim Brotherhood.

The demonstrators denounced Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the ruling military council, and some criticized the Muslim Brotherhood, which they accused of working to further its own political ends.

"We are not political parties and we hate the Brotherhood who gave up on the revolution and the people," Medhat Fawzy said. "We are Egyptian youth," he added, flashing victory signs.

Egyptian state television said Prime Minister Essam Sharaf had called on protesters in Tahrir to clear the square.

The television said 40 of the wounded were police officers and that 18 "troublemakers" had been arrested.

The liberal April 6 Youth movement said the interior minister should quit for ordering the use of force against a peaceful protest.

Friday's rally appeared to be the biggest Islamist challenge to military rule since the largely secular uprising that toppled Mubarak. The demonstration mostly comprised of Brotherhood members and their harder line Salafi rivals.

Protesters expressed anger at a draft constitution that Deputy Prime Minister Ali al-Silmi showed to political groups earlier this month that would give the army exclusive authority over its internal affairs and budget.

Al-Silmi and the Brotherhood appeared to be negotiating, through press statements and the state news agency, on percentages of members of parliament needed to approve the committee that would write the constitution.

Protests escalate in Egypt

Tensions remain high in Egypt Sunday, after police used tear gas and rubber bullets on thousands of protesters demonstrating against military rule in Tahrir Square and other flashpoints around the country overnight.

By Kathryn STAPLEY / FRANCE 24's Cairo correspondent (video)
News Wires (text)

AFP - Several hundred Egyptians occupied Cairo's Tahrir Square on Sunday, following a night of deadly clashes that signalled the start of a violent countdown to the first polls since Hosni Mubarak's ouster.

Fresh clashes broke out on the outskirts of the square, as anti-riot police fired regular rounds of tear gas and dozens of protesters set up barricades on the edges of the plaza.


Protesters streamed into Tahrir on Sunday morning and two large marches were planned into the square, in scenes reminiscent of the 18 days of protests that toppled Mubarak last winter.

Overnight, clashes between protesters and police left two people dead and hundreds injured.

In makeshift hospitals set up in mosques around Tahrir Square, demonstrators were receiving treatment for tear gas inhalation, and injuries from rubber bullets and birdshot.

In the square, protesters chanted against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which took power when Mubarak was toppled by a popular uprising, and demanded the downfall of Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak's longtime defence minister who now heads the military junta.

The overnight protests saw the return of the anti-riot police, the branch of the interior ministry most used by the Mubarak regime in its crackdown against protesters.

"Down with Tantawi," hundreds of demonstrators had cried in Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square on Saturday, as they lobbed rocks and other objects towards armed police.

Medics announced the deaths of Ahmed Mahmoud, 23, who sustained a bullet wound to the chest in Cairo, and Baha Eddin Mohamed Hussein, 25, hit by a rubber bullet in Alexandria as the protests spread from the capital.

The clashes began Saturday in Tahrir Square, as police fired tear gas as well as rubber bullets to break up a lengthy sit-in organised by some of the driving forces behind the Arab Spring revolt that ousted Mubarak in February.

The sit-in was joined by some of the tens of thousands of protesters who had flooded the square on Friday to demand a quick transition to civilian rule and an end to Tantawi's military council, which replaced the Mubarak regime.

Police had seized the square, only to be beaten back by protesters who triumphantly retook it on Saturday evening chanting "The people want to topple the field marshal", Tantawi.

One of the protesters, Ali Abdel Aziz, said security forces beat up people indiscriminately.

"They beat us harshly, they didn't care for either men or women. The interior ministry must take responsibility. We have one demand, the military council must go," said the 32-year-old accountancy professor.

Protesters fear a potential return to power by members of Mubarak's now-dissolved National Democratic Party.

"We didn't have a revolution so the people we removed could come back to parliament," said 30-year-old activist Ahmed Abol Enein.

"None of the revolution's demands have been met," he added.

"We need a transfer of power to civilians. Everything that is happening shows the military wants to stay in power."

The military, in charge since Mubarak's resignation on February 11, says it will hand over power after a presidential election, which has yet to be scheduled.

Parliamentary polls are to start on November 28.

The health ministry said that about 750 people were wounded in the clashes in Tahrir Square, epicentre of the 18 days of protests that ousted Mubarak, as demonstrations spread to Alexandria, Aswan and Suez.

The interior ministry said 40 police officers were among the injured this weekend.

A policeman on an armoured car shot rubber bullets into the Tahrir Square crowd, striking an AFP journalist in the forehead and shoulder, and a Western photographer in the face.

Organisers of the sit-in have called for speedy trials of policemen and officials accused of involvement in the deadly crackdown that accompanied Mubarak's abortive bid to retain his grasp on power.

Mubarak is on trial along with his former interior minister and security chiefs on charges of ordering the killings of some of the roughly 850 people who died in the uprising.

Medics on Tahrir Square told AFP they had overnight treated several people for eye injuries from rubber bullets.

Protests also took place in other cities including Aswan in the south, Alexandria and Suez on the Red Sea, where 10 people including seven demonstrators were injured, a security official said.

In Alexandria and Suez, police fired tear gas grenades to disperse the demonstrators, official news agency MENA reported.

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