23 Nov 2011

Egyptian demonstrators reject army promises

Further clashes between protesters and military police break out in Cairo, as the UN condemns authorities “clearly excessive” use of forcce against protesters.

The Egyptian military police provided back up to riot police guarding the Interior Ministry, where much of the violence broke out.

Riot police had pulled back earlier, but as darkness fell, military police fired guns into the air and used tear gas against protesters who were throwing stones. Protesters ran back towards Tahrir Square as ambulances carried casualties to get help.

One man was killed in clashes early on Wednesday in the second city Alexandria – one of several towns that saw unrest.

‘Excessive force’

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay has condemned the “clearly excessive use of force” by Egypt’s security forces against protesters, and called for an independent inquiry into the deaths of at least 35 people since the weekend.

Police have denied using live ammunition but most of the 36 dead in the preceding five days of protest have had bullet wounds, medics say.

The continued violence came after Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the ruling military council, made a televised address on Tuesday promising a civilian president would be elected in June, about six months sooner than planned.

Tantawi, 76, and defence minister under Mubarak for two decades, appeared hesitant as he told the 80 million Egyptians his army did not want power, promising a referendum on military rule.

“The army is ready to go back to barracks immediately if the people wish that through a popular referendum, if need be,” he said.

But thousands of demonstrators in Cairo’s Tahrir Square rejected Tantawi’s promises and demanded his immediate resignation.

Egypt's radicalised youth fight on, writes Jonathan Rugman in Cairo.
I think a new corps of protestors has been radicalised during the last few days. Many of them are just 16 or 17 years old. They are armed with stones and Molotov cocktails, and they feel the next stage of Egypt’s revolution is now theirs.

Elections imminent

The council also accepted the resignation of the civilian prime minister and his cabinet, who had angered people with a short-lived proposal that the army remain beyond civilian control under any new constitution.

Parliamentary elections will start this coming Monday – a plan confirmed at a meeting between the army and politicians – but they will take till January to complete.

In Alexandria, a 38-year-old protester was killed. A Health Ministry official said the man was shot in the head during a confrontation outside a state security building.