Egyptian soldiers clashed with hundreds of rock-throwing protesters in central Cairo for a second consecutive day on Saturday, in a resurgence of turmoil just days after millions voted in parliamentary elections.
The MENA state news agency said at least eight people have been killed in the clashes that have underlined the simmering tensions between activists and security officers. The violence also threatened to spark a new cycle of fighting after deadly clashes between youth revolutionaries and security forces in November that lasted for days and left more than 40 dead.
After a full day of clashes Friday, hundreds of protesters hurled stones early Saturday at security forces that have sealed off the streets around the country’s parliament building with barbed wire and large concrete blocks. Soldiers on rooftops pelted the crowds below with stones, prompting many of the protesters to pick up helmets, satellite dishes or sheets of metal to try to protect themselves.
Witnesses said that soldiers chased protesters through the streets, forcing them to retreat to nearby Tahrir Square, which served as the epicenter of the uprising that toppled longtime leader Hosni Mubarak in February.
The violence first began late Thursday after soldiers stormed an antimilitary protest camp outside the Cabinet building near Tahrir Square, expelling demonstrators demanding an end to military rule and an immediate transfer of power to a civilian authority. Witnesses said troops snatched a protester, taking him into the parliament building and beating him. The troops later moved in, burning protesters’ tents.
The military took over after long-time President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a popular revolt in February. Rights groups and activists charge that the military is carrying on the practices of the old regime, including arresting and beating dissidents.
MENA said around 300 people have been injured in the ongoing clashes.
Funerals were expected on Saturday for those killed a day earlier. Among the dead was Sheik Emad Effat, a cleric from Al-Azhar, Egypt’s most eminent religious institution. Effat had taken a pro-revolutionary position, criticizing the military and issuing a religious decree forbidding voting for former members of the regime in elections. He was shot in the chest after joining the protesters outside the Cabinet.
Many Egyptians have grown increasingly wary of the military and frustrated with its handling of the country’s transition period, and many activists accuse it of trying to hang on to power.
Keywords: Egypt crisis