Generals in Egypt Deny Role in Clashes (NY) TIMES) By KAREEM FAHIM and MAYY EL SHEIKH CAIRO, EGYPT 05/04/12)
NEW YORK TIMES
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CAIRO — Egypt’s temporary military rulers delivered a sweeping
defense of their tenure on Thursday, saying they were committed to
handing over power to a civil authority by the end of June, and
denying any role in clashes the day before that left at least 11
And they defended their decision not to send troops to the scene for
hours, saying they did not want to escalate the fighting as the
clashes intensified in the Abbaseya neighborhood and residents
watched, horrified, from balconies. When the security services
finally were called in, 12 hours after the conflict erupted, the
scene became quiet. The trouble began after assailants attacked
protesters staging a sit-in near the Defense Ministry.
“I salute the men of the armed forces, the leaders and officers and
soldiers,” said Gen. Mokhtar el-Mola, at the end of a news conference
that lasted nearly two hours. For 15 months, General Mola said, “they
put up with all provocations and violations, but they are honorable
men who endure for the sake of the homeland.”
Several of Egypt’s presidential candidates suspended their campaigns
after the clashes, with some voicing concern that the military would
seek to use the violence as an excuse to delay the elections,
scheduled to begin this month, in a bid to retain power.
Another military spokesman who spoke at the briefing, Maj. Gen.
Mohammed el-Assar, sought to put those fears to rest.
“When we look at the demands of the protesters, we’ll find that the
first thing is the handover of power,” he said. “Today, we’re
announcing it honestly and clearly: the armed forces and the supreme
council are committed to handing over power before the 30th of June,
Separately on Thursday, Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee, said the head of the military council,
Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, had given him similar
assurances. “They are absolutely going to hand over power,” Mr. Kerry
said during a visit to Cairo. “I think they can’t wait.”
General Assar delivered a chronology of the clashes, saying they took
place between protesters and the residents of the neighborhood who
were angered at the blocking of roads and attacks on stores.
Protesters said they suspected that their assailants were thugs
allied with a branch of the Egyptian security services, and noted
that some were armed with tear-gas launchers or firearms.
The general put the death toll at 9 people, while doctors in a field
hospital in Abbaseya said at least 11 people were killed, including
several who died of gunshot wounds. General Assar called it “a very
unfortunate event.” (Copyright 2012 The New York Times Company
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