Nine months on, Cairo is at war again


Tahrir Square

Egyptian troops and military police staged a fierce assault on protesters in Tahrir Square yesterday, leaving at least 10 people dead and hardening fears that the military council could prove as hard to dislodge as Hosni Mubarak. It was the worst violence seen in the Egyptian capital since the height of the uprising in February.

The crowds that had gathered to express their anger at the military government's reluctance to cede power stampeded when the army stormed the square. There were reports that soldiers had used tear gas on a makeshift hospital. But last night returning protesters vowed they would not be forced to leave.

In a confrontation that carried dark echoes of the last days of the Mubarak regime and provoked claims of state brutality, military police stormed into the iconic plaza, firing tear gas and rubber bullets, scattering demonstrators.

Some officers rounded on isolated civilians, beating some of them with batons. Others torched the tents that had been erected by people planning a prolonged sit-in to protest against the country’s military rulers.

The government denied live rounds were used against protesters. But Dr Ahmad Atif, working in a makeshift field hospital in a mosque just off Tahrir Square, said he had seen the bodies of four men killed by live fire, while nearby buildings appeared scarred by new bullet holes and shots were ricocheting off the walls.

The scene in the hospital was of absolute chaos, with hundreds of patients – some of them young boys – being rushed in on stretchers suffering from gunshot wounds. Many people have been blinded by rubber pellets. Dr Haytham Magdy said that one man had been killed after his head was run over by a military car.

"I thought I was going to die," Sahar Kamal, an IT company employee, said. "I thought I was finished."

In stark contrast to these scenes, the cabinet issued a statement thanking the police for showing "self-restraint in dealing with the events".

The operation came after two days of the worst violence to have hit Egypt since the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak in February. With only a week to go until the first round of parliamentary elections, it casts a dark shadow over the supposed centrepiece of Egypt's transition to democracy.

When the troops began to move into the square, cries of "Gesh, Gesh, Gesh" (Army, Army, Army) quickly spread through the crowd, triggering a stampede. Doormen in buildings on side streets forced their doors shut as panicked protesters desperately tried to escape the throng. When most of the square had been cleared, armoured vehicles drove in to fire tear gas at the defiant few who remained.

The Independent witnessed a group of unarmed male protesters cornered by troops and beaten with batons and riot shields; when the troops moved away, six men lay prone on the roadside.

After two other protesters attempted unsuccessfully to revive another man, a military policeman dragged him to the same heap. Troops quickly removed the unconscious men, making it impossible to confirm whether they were alive. But Ghada Shabender, of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights, who spent time in the square's makeshift field hospital, said her group had confirmed at least five deaths.

She said doctors had reported an attack on the hospital. "They said it was stormed by the military police who threw in a tear gas canister," she said. There were multiple other reports of abuses. Pasant, a 24-year-old estate agent, said she had been groped by a soldier as she lay on the ground.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary in Downton Abbey
peopleBut who comes top of the wish list?
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, right, with Lib Dem candidate Jane Dodds in Newtown, Powys, as part of her tour in support of the party’s female candidates
general electionNick Clegg's wife has impressed during the campaign
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living