Nine days to go: Pre-election violence on Tahrir Square

Thousands of police have clashed with protesters for control of Cairo's Tahrir Square on Saturday. One man has been killed and up to 650 injured.

The violence comes nine days before Egypt's first elections since the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak in February.

Protesters hurled rocks at police, crowds attacked an armored police truck, rocking it and eventually setting it on fire. Egyptian security forces tried to stop activists from organizing a long-term sit-in in Cairo’s downtown. 

AP reports that its cameraman saw at least three people arrested, when they refused to leave the square.

The violence began when riot police attacked around 200 peaceful demonstrators, who had camped out in the square overnight, and dismantled a tent camp set up to commemorate protesters killed in the uprising. Police were said to be firing rubber bullets, tear gas and beating protesters with batons to clear the area.

Egyptian protesters clashes with riot police at Cairo′s landmark Tahrir Square on November 19, 2011, as Egyptian police clashedwith protesters. (AFP Photo / Khaled Desouki)
Egyptian protesters clashes with riot police at Cairo's landmark Tahrir Square on November 19, 2011, as Egyptian police clashedwith protesters. (AFP Photo / Khaled Desouki)

Sahar Abdel-Mohsen, an engineer who joined in the protest says "Violence breeds violence. We are tired of this and we are not leaving the square."

A day earlier on Friday, over 50,000 Egyptians were back on Tahrir Square to demand that the military hand over power to a civilian government, in what was the largest demonstration in months.

The rally, which has united Islamists and secular protesters, was organized by the Muslim Brotherhood after the government floated a controversial document bolstering the powers of the armed forces.

Protesters at Friday's rally argued that the generals are recreating the Mubarak regime by cracking down on opposition, with human rights groups estimating that up to 12,000 people have been tried in military courts since Mubarak was ousted.

Pepe Escobar, columnist and correspondent for the Asia Times says this new wave of protests and violence ahead of crucial elections may lead to another revolution.

“This is the war of positioning at the moment. We have Supreme Council of the Military Forces (SCAF). We have at least five different strands of the Muslim Brotherhood. And we have a secular movement lead by the youngsters, the ‘April 6 Movement’, they want a western-style parliamentary democracy. What we are seeing in Tahrir Square at the moment is the Muslim Brotherhood basically fighting SCAF,” Escobar told RT.

Escobar says that SCAF is in a very difficult position. If they repress the opposition “Syrian-style” the situation will get out of hand.

“If we see an enlargement of what is going on in Tahrir square with all the fractions of the Muslim Brotherhood, plus the Google generation, then we are going to have Tahrir Square 2, and the regime is going to respond a-la Mubarak,” he said. “The best model for Egypt would be the Turkish model. It is not necessarily what the Google generation wants.”


Dr. Abdallah Al Ashal, former member of the Egyptian foreign ministry and current candidate for the presidential elections, says that what is now happening on Tahrir Square is unorganized, so it is not leading to a second revolution. But, he adds, if some confrontation takes place between the whole population and the army, it will be a catastrophe, because now the country should concentrate on the elections.