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Security forces, protesters clash again in Cairo

Cairo, December 18, 2011

Protesters and security forces fought in Cairo on Sunday, the third day of clashes that have killed 10 people and exposed rifts over the army's role as it manages Egypt's promised transition from military to civilian rule.

Soldiers and police manned barriers on some streets around Tahrir Square, the hub of the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak and again convulsed by violence as protesters demand the generals who took charge in February quit power.

Police in riot gear made brief forays beyond their barriers and were met by a surge of protesters pelting them with rocks.

Police appeared to have taken over the frontline from soldiers.

Troops in riot gear were filmed on Saturday beating protesters with long sticks even after they had fallen to the ground. A Reuters picture showed two soldiers dragging a woman lying on the ground by her shirt, exposing her underwear.

The violence has overshadowed a staggered parliamentary election, the first free vote most Egyptians can remember, that is set to give Islamists the biggest bloc.

Some Egyptians are enraged by the army's behaviour. Others want to focus on voting, not street protests.

The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces will retain power even after the lower house vote is completed in January, but has pledged to hand over to an elected president by July.

"The army council must go," said a protester with a bandaged head, who gave his name as Mohamed, after another night of clashes between soldiers and activists who had stayed in Tahrir.

Nearby, dozens of youths hurled rocks at security forces behind a barrier of barbed wire and metal sheets. Riot police appeared to have moved to the frontline instead of soldiers.

An army source said 164 people had been detained.

Hundreds of protesters were in Tahrir on Sunday, although traffic was flowing through the square coming from streets not blocked and away from the violence. Most of the clashes have been in streets leading off the square.

One group of activists approached those hurling stones to urge them to stop, but they refused, citing the deaths of 10 people as a reason not to "negotiate". Other activists handed over to the army people they said were making petrol bombs.

Bouts of violence

A hardcore of activists have camped in Tahrir since a protest against army rule on Nov. 18 that was sparked by the army-backed cabinet's proposals to permanently shield the military from civilian oversight in the new constitution.

Bouts of violence since then, including a flare-up last month that killed 42, have deepened frustrations of many other Egyptians, who want an end to protests. They see the military as the only force capable of restoring stability.

"There are people who wait for any problem and seek to amplify it ... The clashes won't stop. There are street children who found shelter in Tahrir," said Ali el-Nubi, a postal worker, adding the army should have managed the transition better. – Reuters




Tags: Egypt | Cairo | Protesters | Forces | Tahrir |

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