11/22/2011

New clashes erupt in Cairo ahead of 'million man' event

From Ben Wedeman and Ian Lee, CNN---- November 22, 2011--- Cairo (CNN) -- Fresh violence broke out near Cairo's Tahrir Square on Tuesday, a day after Egypt's Cabinet submitted its resignation to the nation's military-led government. For several hours, protestors hurled stones at police and chanted for the downfall of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces. Demonstrators apparently tried to defend Tahrir Square as they faced off with police on a connecting street. Egyptian police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, forcing protesters to retreat briefly before returning with renewed intensity. Ambulances rushed in and out of Tahrir Square, once a hub for the movement that led to the ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak in February and is now a center for protests against Egypt's military rulers. Tuesday's violence marks the fourth straight day of clashes between security forces and protesters, days ahead of a November 28 parliamentary election. Some political factions have vowed to hold a sit-in Tuesday at Tahrir Square, demanding the immediate resignation of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces. They also demand the immediate punishment of those who have killed protesters in the past few days. The Alliance of the Revolutionaries of Egypt are calling the event a "million man sit-in." The Muslim Brotherhood, one of the largest organizations in the nation, has said that it is not having its members join the event. Amid the unrest, Egypt's Cabinet offered to resign Monday night. Justice Minister Mohamed Abdelaziz al-Juindy explained that this move to quit the government was driven by opposition to security forces' crackdown on demonstrators. "I resigned because of the events in Tahrir (Square), because of the political responsibility," al-Juindy said. The military leadership accepted the mass resignation soon after the prime minister's office said it was offered, said Lt. Col. Amr Imam, a spokesman for the ruling Supreme Council for the Armed Forces. But a short time later, a spokesman for Prime Minister Essam Sharaf said the resignation was not complete. Mohammed Hegazy said late Monday night that Egypt's military council "is currently in another session with the Cabinet and has not accepted" the Cabinet members' proposed mass resignation "yet." As the potential political shuffling played out, animosity and violence continued to simmer in the streets of Cairo. Twenty-four protesters have died in these recent clashes, Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Adil al-Dawi said. Among police, 102 officers and conscripts have been injured, with wounds ranging from gunshots to burns from Molotov cocktails, the Interior Ministry said. One officer suffered a bullet wound to his head. Roughly 1,700 citizens have been wounded, according to al-Dawi. That number includes at least 207 from Monday. Adel Saeed, a spokesman for Egypt's general prosecutor's office, said 127 demonstrators who had been arrested since Saturday have been released. Another five have been "detained temporarily for further investigation." The military council has said on its Facebook page it is "extremely sorry for what the events have led to." And spokesman Maj. Mohamed Askar noted late Monday that the Supreme Council has ordered a fact-finding mission to assess what has happened. Moreover, the Supreme Council also is calling upon "all political forces to hold dialogue as soon as possible in order to address the escalation" of unrest, Askar said. Yet such pledges didn't appear to resonate much with those around Tahrir Square. "People here feel that they have been cheated and that they have moved from an autocracy to a military dictatorship," protester Mosa'ab Elshamy said. "So they are back to the square -- back to square one -- to ask for their rights once again." Another man said the Supreme Council itself must relinquish authority. "We want the military council to hand over power to civilians," he said. "It's over! It's enough of them. ... Stop beating the people!" With citizen activists again at odds with security forces in Tahrir Square, the scene this week in many ways resembles what happened in February. After Mubarak's fall, military leaders took control with the promise that eventually a civilian government would be elected and take over. Military leaders still say they will hand over power to a new government when one is elected. Though parliamentary elections are set to take place November 28, a complex electoral process follows, and presidential elections could be a year away. Demonstrators say they are concerned the military, which would continue to be Egypt's top authority until a president is in place, wants to keep a grip on the country. Many also have voiced anger about a proposed constitutional principle that would shield the military's budget from scrutiny by civilian powers. They say they worry the military would be shaped as a state within a state. On the streets of Cairo, some protesters have gone further, shouting that they believe Mubarak is running the military council and, in fact, the entire country from prison. He and his sons Gamal and Alaa face charges of corruption and of killing protesters. Violence on the streets has intensified the sentiments among demonstrators. CNN saw captured protesters beaten and shocked with devices that resembled stun guns. CNN also saw bullet holes and a pool of blood. Witnesses said one young man was shot from a nearby building. Doctors at Tahrir Square said injuries in the latest fighting include gunshot wounds, excessive tear gas inhalations and beatings to the head. Still, security forces' efforts to control the demonstrators have not succeeded in stopping the people -- many of them shouting "freedom" -- from gathering day after day, night after night. Besides Cairo, clashes between protesters and police have also reportedly broken out in the cities of Suez and Alexandria. Military officials have said generally that they will allow protests, as long as they are peaceful. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has stressed its commitment to "handing over power to an elected, civil administration" and said they do not "seek to prolong the transitional period in any way." CNN's Ivan Watson and journalist Mohamed Fadel Fahmy contributed to this report.