Soldiers stormed a protest camp outside Egypt’s Cabinet building today, prompting clashes with demonstrators calling for an end to military rule.
The violence came just as officials were counting votes from the second round of the country’s parliamentary elections when police tried to shift demonstrators against military rule who have been camped outside it for three weeks.
Social networks played a massive part in bringing down President Mubarek in the first revolution and today a series of images were posted online by bloggers wanting to bring the world’s attention to the brutality on the streets.
No mercy: A woman in a burka is beaten and arrested in Tahrir Square, while a luckier protester is nursed
One activist posted a photo on Twitter of a female protester beaten in the skirmishes, another on Yfrog showed a man’s head totally covered in blood – while an AP photographer captured a soldier viciously beating a prostrate woman in a burka.
Up to 50 protesters were believed to be injured and it’s not known how many more are in police custody.
Leading reform figure and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei took to Twitter to condemn the violence, writing, ‘If the sit-in broke the law, isn’t the cruelty and brutality used to break it up a greater violation of all human rights laws? This is not how nations are managed.’
Power was transferred to the military after Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a popular revolt in February.
Rights groups and activists claim that the military is carrying on the practices of the old regime, including arresting and beating dissidents.
Protesters at the Cabinet building said the clashes began last night after soldiers severely beat a young man who was taking part in the sit-in.
When shocking online video and photos emerged showing people carrying the man, hundreds of people rushed to join the protest.
The pictures showed his face and eyes bruised and swollen, his head wrapped in gauze, and blood dripping from his nose.
Retaliation: A protester throws a make-shift fire bomb near the Parliament building
Witnesses accused military police of snatching the man from near the sit-in and beating him inside parliament, near Cabinet headquarters. Protesters then threw rocks and firebombs at military police.
Activist Hussein Hammouda said the military countered by throwing rocks and pieces of glass, and aiming water cannon from inside the gates of the nearby parliament building.
‘Tensions between the people and security officers is so enflamed that anything that happens just blows up. There is no trust between the two sides,’ said Mr Hammouda, who resigned from the police in 2005 to protest against their practices.
Egypt’s state news agency said at least four wounded people were taken to a nearby hospital and that a fire had broken out in a nearby government building as a result of the clashes.
State TV broadcast images of plain clothes security officers throwing rocks at protesters from the parliament building.
Protester Mostafa Sheshtawy said the security forces had burned protesters’ tents overnight and ended the sit-in calling for an end to military rule.
Dissatisfied with the military’s handling of Egypt’s transition, protesters today chanted ‘Down with military rule’ and ‘The people want the execution of the Field Marshal,’ referring to Defence Minister Hussein Tantawi, head of the military council.
Mr Sheshtawy said dozens of protesters were being treated for their wounds at a nearby field hospital.
‘It’s pretty ironic that the military is throwing rocks at protesters from the parliament building, where a sign is hanging that says democracy is the power of the people,’ he said.
The continued unrest since Mubarak’s departure has battered Egypt’s economy, and many blame the protests for the instability. Today’s clashes overshadowed a nationwide campaign to urge Egyptians to buy locally-made goods.
Despite the protests, the military retains widespread support among many Egyptians who see it as the only entity able to run the country until presidential elections scheduled for next year.
Images of troops protecting polling centres and soldiers carrying the elderly to the polls have served to boost the military’s image as guardians of the country.