Middle East

Egypt elections: Cairo protesters clash with army

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Media captionThe BBC's Jon Leyne reports as Egyptian television shows coverage of clashes in Cairo on Friday

Clashes have broken out in Egypt's capital, Cairo, after the army tried to remove demonstrators staging a sit-in near the country's cabinet building.

The protesters threw stones at soldiers, who responded in kind. The troops also fired water cannons at the activists and beat them with batons.

At least two people are believed to have been killed.

The sit-in began three weeks ago after the appointment of a new prime minister by Egypt's governing military council.

The protesters want the generals to transfer power immediately to a civilian authority, and not wait until a presidential election in mid-2012.

The military council took control of the country after a popular uprising forced President Hosni Mubarak to step down in February.


The clashes in Cairo reportedly began early on Friday after images were published online of the badly bruised face of an activist, who said he had been detained by military police at the sit-in the previous day and beaten.

Protesters threw stones at the soldiers deployed outside the cabinet and parliament buildings, who responded with their own volleys of stones.

They also attempted to end the sit-in by tearing down the demonstrators' tents and carrying out several baton charges, beating several women.

By early afternoon, the troops had pulled back, but the crowd continued to be pelted with stones and concrete slabs by plainclothes and uniformed security officers on the roof of the parliament building.

Some in the crowd threw petrol bombs, setting part of the building and several cars alight. They also burnt car tires in the street to send up plumes of smoke and block the view of the security forces.

A health ministry official, Hisham Shiha, later told state television that one person had died of suspected gunshot wounds. He added that 105 people were being treated in hospital for injuries, while another 68 were treated by medics at the scene.

State television quoted health ministry officials as saying 99 people had been injured in the violence. It also said 32 members of the security forces had been hurt.

But one youth activist, Sahar Abdel-Mohsen, told the Associated Press she had seen the bodies of two protesters at the morgue of a local hospital. She said both had gunshot wounds.

Mohamed ElBaradei, a presidential candidate and former head of the UN's nuclear watchdog, condemned the army's tactics.

"Even if the sit-in was not legal, should it be dispersed with such brutality and barbarity?" he wrote on his Facebook page.

The attempt to end the protest has clearly backfired, the BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo reports.

The episode is very damaging for the authorities, as they had promised not to allow attacks on protestors, he adds.

The clashes are believed to be the bloodiest since nearly a week of protests in November left more than 40 people dead.

The violence comes as Egypt is holding parliamentary elections.

Islamist parties consolidated their lead over liberal and secular parties in this week's second round, according to initial counts reported by state media.

The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) was said to be ahead in the southern province of Sohag and Giza province, which includes a large part of Cairo. The Salafist al-Nour Party was reportedly ahead in the port city of Suez.

The FJP won more than 36% of the vote in the first round last month.