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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
football
Life and Style
food + drink
News
video
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Service Desk Analyst- Desktop Support, Helpdesk, ITIL

£20000 - £27000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Service Desk Engineer-(Support, ITIL, Software Vendor)

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Engineer-(Support, S...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel you sales role is li...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home