Thousands of protesters calling for an end to military rule have regained control of Tahrir Square on Sunday night after violent clashes with riot police the day before. At least eleven have died and over 900 have been seriously injured, with many treated for “severe gas inhalation and flesh wounds from different types of ammunition” in hastily erected field hospitals, some in mosques and churches. Demonstrators say that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which has ruled Egypt since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, is seeking to retain its grip on power and attempting to take control of the revolution.
As many as 3,000 protesters, many with gas masks, stones and Molotov cocktails in hand, have returned to Tahrir Square and are calling for reinforcements, while seeking to keep the police from reentering the iconic center of Egypt’s uprising. Earlier in the day, police had set fire to tents and protesters’ motorcycles and other belongings. Said Salma Said, a democracy activist, to Al Jazeera:
“This is what the Egyptian army calls protecting the revolution.
“We’ve lost so many people in the last nine months. We want [interim military leader] Field Marshall Tantawi gone. We’re going to keep fighting; we donít have any other options.”
Egyptian state television also said that about 59 soldiers and 21 officers had been injured during the fighting. A young man wrote a telephone number on his arm so his mother could be called if he died.
Photo by Ahmed_Alareed
The generals leading the SCAF have said they will continue ruling until a new constitution is created. They have refused to set a date for presidential elections. Many have accused the SCAF of in effect hijacking the revolution; some have †said that it could have played a role in instigating the clashes days before elections are to be held on November 28, to show that Egypt is still in need of military rule.
In the wake of the violence, a number of political parties and candidates said they were suspending their campaigns. Calls have arisen for a national government of salvation to be formed and Mohamed ElBaradei, a figurehead of the opposition, has said that he sympathizes with such calls:
“I will do anything to save the country from falling apart and what we are seeing right now is the country going down. People are calling on me to present this government, and I will do whatever it takes to save our country from falling apart.”
Bothaina Kamel, Egypt’s only female presidential candidate and an outspoken opponent of military rule, is thought to have been arrested during the clashes. Just before her detention, Kamel said that the violence revealed that “the ugly face of Mubarak that has been lurking behind Scaf all along.” She also gave her support to ElBaradei to lead a transitional civilian government though such would “throw Egypt into unprecedented confusion,” as this would mean that two rival political bodies would be claiming to be Egypt’s government. Any self-declared civilian authority would have to have the support of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose Freedom and Justice party is thought likely to prevail in the elections.
Said†Ahmed Hamza, a lawyer who, like many, has vowed to stay in Tahrir Square until the SCAF commits to step down from power soon, “I saw the revolution being slain, so I had to come.”
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