Africa

Egypt: Army crackdown in Cairo's Tahrir Square

  • 9 April 2011
  • From the section Africa

Egypt's army has cracked down on protests in Cairo's symbolic Tahrir Square, leaving at least one person dead and dozens injured.

The violence occurred overnight as the army tried to clear protesters calling for ex-President Hosni Mubarak and his family to be tried for corruption.

The injured suffered gunshot wounds but the army denies using live rounds.

Tahrir Square became the symbolic centre of protests that led to Mr Mubarak stepping down this year.

Egypt's health ministry has so far confirmed that one person died overnight and says 71 people were hurt.

Medical sources told news agencies that at least two people had died.

Protesters have now returned to the square following the army withdrawal and are continuing demonstrations.

In an apparent concession to the protesters the ruling military council announced on Saturday that it would replace a number of provincial governors appointed by Mr Mubarak - another demand of the demonstrators.

However, the army also said it was "ready" to use force to clear the square and allow normal life to resume.

"Tahrir Square will be emptied of protesters with firmness and force to ensure life goes back to normal," Major General Adel Emarah, of the military council, told a news conference.

'Tantawi is Mubarak'

The army had maintained a generally neutral role in the earlier mass demonstrations.

But about 300 troops moved into the square at about 0300 local time (0100 GMT) on Saturday to break up a camp in the centre.

Protesters say they were beaten with clubs and shots were fired.

An army spokesman told Reuters news agency that only blanks were used.

The military issued a statement blaming "outlaws" for rioting and violating a curfew but said no-one was hurt.

"The armed forces stress that they will not tolerate any acts of rioting or any act that harms the interest of the country and the people," it said.

The military denied any arrests had been made but protesters said several demonstrators had been dragged away into vans.

Three vehicles, two of them military, were set on fire during the unrest.

The protesters were demanding a number of measures, including the resignation of the man who has replaced Mr Mubarak as interim leader, Field Marshal Mohamad Hussein Tantawi.

"Tantawi is Mubarak and Mubarak is Tantawi," they chanted.

The military force finally withdrew and protesters began to reoccupy the square in daylight.

It was filled with broken glass and debris from the clashes.

The violence came after a huge protest in the square on Friday.

Hundreds of thousands demanded the prosecution of Mr Mubarak for corruption.

Mass protests ousted Mr Mubarak on 11 February but many believe the military figures now overseeing political transition are protecting him.