Egypt military detains hundreds following violence (AP) Associated Press) By SARAH EL DEEB CAIRO, EGYPT 05/05/12 5:58 pm ET)
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CAIRO – Egypt´s military officials moved swiftly Saturday to
prosecute protesters they blamed for an attack on the Defense
Ministry, in an attempt to put down increasingly violent protests
against their authority just weeks before the country´s presidential
The fierce street battles on Friday raised to new heights the tension
between the generals, who assumed power after Hosni Mubarak stepped
down last year, and their critics, predominently secular and liberal
groups but now spearheaded by hard-line Islamists.
At least a hundred protesters have been killed in violent
confrontations with security agencies since Mubarak´s ouster. But the
military´s response to Friday´s demonstration near its headquarters
was significant in how swiftly they moved to detain protesters.
Military prosecutors interrogated hundreds of demonstrators,
referring some 300 of them to 15 days detention pending investigation
into accusations of attacking troops and disrupting public order, a
prosecution official said Saturday.
At least two detainees face accusations of killing a soldier in the
Friday violence, the official said.
Political tension between the ruling generals and different groups in
Egypt has been building during an election run-up marred by legal
pitfalls, a lack of clarity in the authorities of the next president
and a growing fear among activists that the military is seeking to
back a candidate it can trust to preserve its economic interests and
a special political role in the future.
Secular forces have accused the generals of seeking to cling to
power; but Islamists have only recently joined the chorus.
After issuing warnings against approaching the defense ministry, the
military was quick to react when protesters tried to break through
the barbed wire. Police forces used water canons, tear gas and live
ammunition to break up the crowd. Hundreds were detained in a
security crackdown as the protesters dispersed.
Tensions started to brew a week ago. Protesters, predominantly
supporters of an ultraconservative presidential candidate who was
barred from the election, held a sit-in outside the ministry starting
Deadly clashes broke out when apparent supporters of the military
rulers attacked the crowd Wednesday.
Nine people were killed in those clashes, which drew in antimilitary
protesters from different revolutionary groups. They called for a
rally Friday, demanding the generals stick to their pledges to step
down after the election.
As Islamists increasingly feel they are losing out in the jockeying
for power, some of them have become louder in their criticism of the
military generals. Two prominent Islamist presidential candidates
were disqualified from the race on technical grounds.
The ultraconservative candidate was disqualified because his mother
held dual Egyptian-American nationality, a violation of the law.
The powerful Muslim Brotherhood´s candidate was disqualified because
of a previous political conviction under Mubarak´s rule, also a
The group, which won nearly 50 percent of the parliament seats, is
fielding another candidate but they have been frustrated with
translating their parliament success into political power.
The group organized a parallel rally on Friday in Tahrir Square,
refusing to join the march on the Ministry of Defense. But on
Saturday, it criticized the military authorities´ quick move to
prosecute those who attacked their headquarters while doing little to
prosecute those who killed civilians near the ministry on Wednesday.
The Brotherhood described it as "astonishing and surprising."
The tension between the military and Islamist critics has given the
ruling military council a chance to sway public opinion to its side.
Many secular and liberal Egyptians fear the growing power of
Islamists, and many see the military as the only institution that can
lead the country´s transition to democracy.
On Saturday, the state-controlled media focused on the Islamist role
in the violent clashes, replaying images of bearded young men and
women removing the barbed wire, throwing stones, and gesturing at the
An analyst hosted by state TV said the protesters against the
military were "traitors" to the nation.
The circumstances surrounding the deadly clashes on Wednesday remain
Residents and activists said some of the protesters were armed and
provoked the situation.
Islamist protesters said the assailants were hired thugs or
plainclothes security. They blamed the military for doing nothing to
stop the fighting and said authorities planted armed people among
them to frame them for the violence.
A military official said the dead soldier was shot by someone inside
the mosque. He was speaking on condition of anonymity according to
The official said a curfew will remain in place again Saturday around
In an apparent good will gesture, the military general prosecutor
Adel el-Morsi ordered the release of all female detainees rounded up
following the clashes. El-Morsi didn´t give a reason, but troops have
previously been criticized for targeting female protesters. (© 2012
The Associated Press 05/05/12)
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