Unknown attackers kill 11 at Cairo protest
Unknown assailants have killed at least 11 people protesting against Egypt’s ruling generals near the defence ministry in Cairo, officials say. The attackers set on them at dawn using rocks, clubs, firebombs and firing shotguns. The protesters retaliated, beating some of the assailants.
Soldiers and police have now stopped the clashes, but the intervention came nearly six hours after they began.
Two leading presidential candidates have suspended campaigning in protest. Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh, an independent Islamist, and Mohammed Mursi, head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), criticised the authorities’ response.
In addition, the FJP and the Salafist Nour party, which together control 70% of the seats in parliament, decided to boycott a meeting with the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (Scaf).
Many of the protesters who were attacked outside the defence ministry building, in the capital’s Abbasiya district, on Wednesday morning were supporters of a Salafist preacher barred from standing in the election.
Hazem Abu Ismail was disqualified because his mother had dual Egyptian-US nationality, violating rules laid out in a constitutional declaration approved after an uprising forced President Hosni Mubarak to step down. Mr Abu Ismail complained that he was the victim of a “plot” by the military authorities, but the election commission found no evidence.
Some reports said the unidentified attackers were local people, angry at the disruption caused by the sit-in, which began on Saturday. But many Egyptians will suspect that, at the very least, the government turned a blind eye, reports the BBC’s Jon Leyne in Cairo.
The use of plain-clothes thugs is a well-worn tactic by the authorities, he adds.
Soldiers and police deployed in the area initially did not intervene to stop the clashes, nor did they when one person was killed in a similar attack early on Sunday.
The health ministry said more than 150 people were injured on Wednesday and that many were receiving treatment at a nearby field clinic. Some had gunshot wounds and others had been attacked with knives, according to medical sources.
The Nobel laureate and former head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog, Mohamed ElBaradei, criticised the ruling generals on Twitter.
“Massacre in front of [the ministry of defence],” he wrote. “SCAF & government unable to protect civilians or in cahoots with thugs. Egypt going down the drain.”
Opposition to the Scaf has built up steadily since it assumed Mr Mubarak’s presidential powers in February 2011.
The council has been accused of stifling dissent by killing protesters, detaining critics and undermining the youth and civil society groups which led the uprising.
The generals have promised to hand over power to a civilian administration by the end of June, after a presidential election that they say will be free and fair.
The election’s first round is scheduled for 23 and 24 May, with a run-off vote for the top two candidates expected on 16 and 17 June.
The race seems to have narrowed to a contest between Mr Aboul Fotouh, Mr Mursi, and the former head of the Arab League, Amr Moussa
Source: BBC News
Category: World News |