Violent Clashes in Cairo, At Least 11 Killed, Dozens Wounded
At least 11 people were killed on Wednesday in Cairo as unknown attackers armed with guns and firebombs clashed with protesters near the Defense Ministry, as they rushed from a neighborhood close by at dawn and fought 500 demonstrators, many of whom are supporters of Hafez Abu-Ismail, an ultraconservative preacher who was disqualified a few weeks ago from the presidential race.
According to the authorities, 49 people were wounded in what appears to be an attack caused by live ammunition, rocks, clubs and other weapons. The protesters are said to be a mix of Abu-Ismail supporters and anti-military protesters. Residents in the assailed neighborhood are said to have attacked the protesters, exasperated by the noise and the turmoil they create.
The attack, which comes a few weeks before the presidential elections scheduled for May 23-24, resemble the weird attack on people in the Tahrir Square last year, when a mass of violent thugs attacked the people who were protesting, causing many to die or be wounded.
The neighborhood where the clashes occurred is called Abbasiya, and the military council in charge of the transition power said that order has been reestablished after the clashes and the zone enjoys once again certain degree of security.
Egyptian daily Ahram reports that army soldiers and Central Security Forces arrived at the conflict site to end violence. The daily reports that the clash was between the protesters in front of Defense Ministry and the people living in the nearby areas. It says nine people were killed.
Ahram says that the Central Security Forces positioned themselves between the fighting sides in an effort to end the stone throwing. Tahrir doctors, a group of volunteering doctors who have treated wounded in Tahrir, said live ammunition was used on people.
Eye witnesses told the Ahram that the people were attacked at the early hour on Wednesday with teargas, homemade bombs, stones, Molotov cocktails, shotguns loaded with birdshot. It is said to be the second such attack within 72 hours, after a similar one on Sunday, when a person was killed and dozens were injured.
Abu-Ismail called on the political party representatives to boycott the meeting with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which was scheduled for Wednesday and must discuss the creation of a new constituent assembly, after the previous one was sacked by a decision of an Egyptian high court.
Abu-Ismail said that the blood of the people is being spilled in the streets, and asked the rhetorical question whether they could meet SCAF at a time like this. He posted the comment on the Facebook page.
The meeting scheduled for Wednesday is already being boycotted by the Freedom and Justice party, a proxy of the Muslim Brotherhood, which won the majority of seats in the parliament, the Salafist Nour party, the liberal Wafd and Adl parties, and the leftist Social Popular Alliance party.
Many president hopefuls have suspended their campaign to protest the use of force against the protesters. Ahram said that there was rumor in Egypt that SCAF would propose a postponement of the presidential elections until after the constitution was drafted. A military source though denied such speculation, saying that SCAF wanted to hand over power as soon as possible to a new government.
The military source qualified reports about postponing handing over of power as totally false, citing marshal Tantawi who said he wanted the process completed by the end of June.
Presidential election commission last week offered a list of 13 candidates which can run for president. The surprise was offered by the reinstatement of Ahmed Shafiq, former premier during the revolution last year. Shafiq’s bid had been rejected on the ground that he had been a member of the Mubarak regime, but was admitted 24 hours later.
Among those who lost their right to run for president are Khairat el-Shater, representing the Muslim Brotherhood, Abu-Ismail and Omar Suleiman, former chief of intelligence. The frontrunners are now Amr Moussa, former Foreign Minister and Mohammed Morsi, the candidate for the Muslim Brotherhood.11