Anger flares at Egypt army for brutal protest raid

Military warns of using force to clear Tahrir Square

 In a sign the confrontation could escalate, the military warned on Saturday that it will clear Tahrir Square of protesters “with all force and decisiveness” for life to get back to normal.

The warning could presage a repeat of the scene before dawn, when hundreds of soldiers, including a highly trained parachute unit, swarmed into Tahrir Square, firing in the air and beating protesters with clubs and shocking some with electrical batons.

Troops dragged away protesters, while others staggered away bleeding from beatings and gunshot wounds. Witnesses reported two killed, though the Health Ministry insisted there was only one death.

“It was like a horror movie,” said Mohammed Yehia, an activist and university student from the Nile Delta who was among the protesters.

The confrontation marks a dangerous juncture in Egypt’s three months of upheaval.
When longtime president Hosni Mubarak was ousted on February 11 after 18 days of mass demonstrations against his authoritarian rule, protesters hugged and kissed soldiers on tanks in Tahrir Square, praising them for protecting their “revolution.”

Most welcomed the handover of power to the Armed Forces’ Supreme Council, a body of top generals headed by Defence Minister Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi.

In the weeks since, tensions have rised. Protest leaders have been critical of the military council’s handling of the post-Mubarak transition and the public has been angered by its failure to prosecute the former president. But both sides also worked to stay on good terms.

The overnight clashes resembled the ugliest moments of the 18-day protest movement against Mubarak — with authorities cracking down violently and protesters chanting for the leader’s removal.

The violence only fed accusations among some protesters that the military — especially Tantawi, a longtime Mubarak loyalist — was only trying to preserve the ousted president’s regime.

Soldiers detained 42 youth protesters including a British and a German national in the raid, said human rights lawyer Mohammed al-Ansari, and they now face military tribunals for violating military bans on gatherings.

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