Cairo on a knife-edge as 20 killed in election clashes

The Military Council is accused of orchestrating the violence in a bid to have the poll postponed

Cairo

Two high-profile presidential candidates suspended their campaigns yesterday after an attack on anti-military protesters left at least 20 people dead ahead of Egypt's first free presidential elections later this month.

Scores of men, dressed in plain-clothes and armed with guns, knives and Molotov cocktails, ambushed protesters who had been staging a sit-in close to the Ministry of Defence in eastern Cairo yesterday.

Activists blamed the ruling Military Council, accusing Egypt's generals of orchestrating the violence in a bid to postpone the presidential poll – a move which has been suggested by top-ranking officials but which is opposed by most of the main political groups.

With the 23 May election approaching, one of the country's leading youth organisations called on thousands of followers to mount a "siege" of the heavily guarded Ministry of Defence tomorrow. But the plan could lead to more unrest after months of bloodshed and political wrangling.

Mohammed Mursi, who heads the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and independent Islamist Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh, both suspended their campaigns after authorities took hours to intervene to stop the violence.

Yesterday's clashes began in the early hours of the morning, and came after a sit-in initially launched days ago by disgruntled ultra-conservative Salafi Muslims.

Many of the demonstrators had descended on the Abbaseya district to protest over the disqualification of their favoured presidential candidate, Abu Ismail, but they were later joined by other activists, including "ultras" from Cairo's top two football clubs.

Activists said that at around 2am dozens of men armed with sticks and guns began rushing towards the protesters from two different directions.

"They came running at us from near the metro station," said Bahaa Ragab, a 23-year-old university graduate told The Independent yesterday. "I saw thugs carrying pistols. I'm so angry. My friends have died today."

A trainee doctor said that after 2.30am he started treating a steady stream of injured protesters, many of them battered and bloodied by rocks and stones. By 4.30am he and his colleagues were receiving victims with gunshot wounds.

"I saw five people who had been killed by live rounds," said the doctor, Ahmad el-Khabiry. "One of them was shot in his left temple and the bullet came out of the other side of his head," he said, adding that another two victims had their eyes forced from their sockets by shotgun pellets.

Hospital officials said that nine of the 11 people who died received gunshot wounds to the head. Two others were stabbed to death. According to state television, the assailants were local people from the Abbaseya district who had grown sick of the continued demonstrations, though protesters and politicians insisted they were regime thugs.

According to the Reuters news agency there were also unconfirmed reports that some Salafis had brought guns to the protest for protection.

But Dr Amr Darrag, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing, blamed the ruling generals, telling The Independent that the attacks were a "replica" of previous incidents which activists have pinned on the regime.

Yesterday's violence was the latest in a string of clashes which have blighted Egypt's transitional period and prolonged the continuing stalemate over the country's new constitution.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
filmReview: Gyllenhaal, in one of his finest performances, is funny, engaging and sinister all at once
Arts and Entertainment
Shelley Duvall stars in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining
filmCritic Kaleem Aftab picks his favourites for Halloween
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington has been given a huge pay rise to extend his contract as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones
tv
Life and Style
Taste the difference: Nell Frizzell tucks into a fry-up in Jesse's cafe in east London
food + drinkHow a bike accident left one woman living in a distorted world in which spices smell of old socks and muesli tastes like pork fat
Sport
Luke Shaw’s performance in the derby will be key to how his Manchester United side get on
footballBeating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Life and Style
Google's doodle celebrating Halloween 2014
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Don’t send in the clowns: masks and make-up conceal true facial expressions, thwarting our instinct to read people’s minds through their faces, as seen in ‘It’
filmThis Halloween, we ask what makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?
News
peopleFarage challenges 'liberally biased' comedians to 'call him a narcissist'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior IP Opportunity at Major Firm

vary Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - AN OPENING AT A VERY HIGH Q...

Nursery Manager

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Nursery Manager Long term Ran...

Sales Consultant – Permanent – West Sussex – £24-£25k plus commission and other benefits

£24000 - £25000 Per Annum plus company car and commission: Clearwater People S...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Bris...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes