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Egyptians denounce violence against protesters


Several thousand Egyptians rallied in Cairo's central Tahrir Square today to denounce violence against protesters.

They have been especially outraged by images of women protesters dragged by their hair, beaten and kicked by troops.

The rally marked a week after deadly clashes erupted near Tahrir Square between protesters and the military, which took power after President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising in February. Seventeen protesters were killed over the past week.

Last week's violence erupted when military forces guarding the Cabinet building near the square tried to forcibly disperse a three-week-old sit-in demanding that the ruling generals hand over power to a civilian authority.

During the clashes, both sides threw firebombs, and several buildings were burned. A research centre set up by Napoleon Bonaparte during France's invasion in the late 18th century was badly damaged.

At least 100 people have been killed in such confrontations and in sectarian violence since the military took power.

Today's protest, named Regaining honour and defending the revolution, was backed by more than two dozen groups, among them newly formed political parties born out of the uprising.

An unidentified cleric giving the Friday sermon in Tahrir Square blamed the military for divisions and called on the generals to give up power as the only solution to ending "dictatorship".

After the Friday prayers, worshippers began a march to Tahrir Square to join the rally.

Egypt's powerful Muslim Brotherhood stayed away from the demonstration at the square. The Brotherhood is so far the biggest winner in Egypt's parliamentary elections and has distanced itself from the protesters' demand for an immediate handover of power. The military's timetable is to transfer power after a new president is elected by the end of June 2012.

A competing rally of several hundred people gathered in support of the military in another part of Cairo. They believe an end to the demonstrations will restore stability, attract tourists and boost the country's sagging economy.

Many Egyptians who back the military were outraged over pictures of soldiers stripping a woman half-naked while dragging her in the street during the crackdown this past week.

Amnesty International said authorities in Egypt must not use force against peaceful protesters by targeting women with "gender-based violence."