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?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones