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Monday, 21 November 2011

Egypt protests on brink of second revolution against military

Egypt protests on brink of second revolution against military

35 killed as police tackle protesters in Tahrir Square, clashes in a bloody weekend of protests, as security forces continue their efforts to clear Cairo's Tahrir Square of protesters.

At least 35 people have died since the violence began on Saturday, and the death toll is expected to rise.

Culture Minister Emad Abu Ghazi has resigned in protest at the government's handling of the demonstrators.

Protesters fear the interim military government is trying to retain its grip on power.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, led by Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, is charged with overseeing the country's transition to democracy after three decades of autocratic rule under Mr Mubarak.

Calls for his resignation could be heard during the weekend's protests.

This is the longest continuous protest since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February.

It casts a shadow over elections due to start next week.

Large crowds were again seen streaming into Tahrir Square on Monday - defying the military's attempts to keep them away from the place that was the symbolic heart of demonstrations against Mr Mubarak.

TV footage showed tear gas being fired into the protesters, while fire bombs and chunks of concrete were reportedly being lobbed back at the police.

During clashes overnight, a makeshift field hospital - one of a number set up in and around the square - was reportedly attacked by police.

And as the violence continued into Monday morning, tear gas fired by police reportedly set alight a nearby apartment block.

The clashes followed fierce fighting on Sunday in which stones and petrol bombs were thrown at armoured personnel carriers and police. Security forces responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Witnesses reported scenes of panic when hundreds of soldiers and police beat protesters as they chased them out of Tahrir Square.

Violence also took place in other cities over the weekend, including Alexandria, Suez and Aswan.

The health ministry said that 20 people had been killed on Sunday and Monday, with two people killed on Saturday. Some 1,750 people have been injured.

Morgue officials were quoted later on Monday that the death toll was now at least 33, but that has not been officially confirmed

Culture Minister Emad Abu Ghazi has resigned "in protest at the government's handling of the recent events in Tahrir Square", Egypt's official Mena news agency reports.
The BBC's Yolande Knell in Cairo says the demands of the protesters have changed over the course of the weekend. Crowds initially gathered to urge the military to set a date for the handover of power, but now they want the military leaders to resign immediately and hand over to a civilian administration.

"The military promised that they would hand over power within six months," one protester said. "Now 10 months have gone by and they still haven't done it. We feel deceived."

In recent weeks, protesters - mostly Islamists and young activists - have been holding demonstrations against a draft constitution that they say would allow the military to retain too much power after a new civilian government is elected.

Earlier this month, the military council produced a draft document setting out principles for a new constitution, under which the military and its budget could be exempted from civilian oversight.

A proposal by the military to delay the presidential election until late 2012 or early 2013 has further angered the opposition.

Protesters want the presidential vote to take place after parliamentary elections, which begin on 28 November and will be staggered over the next three months.

A statement from the cabinet on Sunday said the elections would go ahead as planned, and praised the "restraint" of interior ministry forces against protesters.

The military council, in a statement read out on state television, said it "regretted" what was happening, AFP news agency reports.

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