Cairo protests are still scaling new heights as the protesters are stepping up in their demand for resignation of the military rulers of the Egypt. Street battles with riot police have been heaviest around the fortified interior ministry located on a side street off Tahrir Square. Reportedly, there was also gunfire, which was reported late on Wednesday though it was claimed to be firing only tear gas. Apparently, the protesters’ demands are there to only have a civilian government which will have nothing to do with the military. Even this violence is also expected to overshadow the nest week’s parliamentary elections.
However, the public opinion seems to be divided as some Egyptians want elections to go ahead first, undisturbed while others believe the military must be swept from power first. The clashes are right now entering the sixth day and are the longest outbreak of violence since the eighteen day protest that led former President Hosni Mubarak to step down in February. The country is since then run by a military council for helping it to transform into a democracy but later protestors claimed of suspicion that the military intends to stay on power.
However, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, has already promised presidential elections by the end of June, six months sooner than planned. The military-appointed civilian cabinet also tendered its resignation. Groups of stone-throwing demonstrators have been locked in pitched battles in the streets between Tahrir Square and the interior ministry for several days.
Due to these Riots, the police have already blocked streets and have driven back the protestors with tear gas and rubber-covered steel buckshot. Though Protesters are claiming to have been hit of gunshots and injuries or deaths from live bullets but Interior Minister Mansour el-Essawy denied all this by saying that security forces were only firing tear gas. However, this claim of using only tear gas have rubbished by the UN human rights Chief Navi Pillay on Wednesday who condemned by stating that the clearly excessive use of force by Egypts security forces during the clashes and she also called for an independent inquiry into deaths since the weekend.
The clashes are there being held in all major Egyptian cities like Alexandria, Ismailia etc. Also, television pictures from Ismailia showed armoured vehicles patrolling streets as security forces tried to disperse protesters with volleys of tear gas. In Alexandria protests have been smaller than in Cairo, but one protester said clashes were continuing early on Thursday outside the security headquarters.
The Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition group, apparently claimed as not supporting the protests but instead, are heavily counting on the next parliamentary elections which start next week and will be staggered over several months.
As reported by the health ministry, 35 people had died in clashes since Saturday – all but four in Cairo. Hundreds more have been injured. State news agency Mena reported that one person had been shot dead in the north-western city of Mersa Matruh as demonstrators tried to storm a police station.
Report by Indrani Chowdury