Egypt army says sorry after protester clashes

CAIRO Sat Feb 26, 2011 6:17am EST

A man holds an Egyptian flag during a rally at Tahrir Square, in Cairo, February 25, 2011. REUTERS/Peter Andrews

A man holds an Egyptian flag during a rally at Tahrir Square, in Cairo, February 25, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Peter Andrews

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CAIRO (Reuters) - Soldiers used force Saturday to break up a protest demanding more political change in Egypt in the toughest move yet against demonstrators who accused the country's military rulers of "betraying the people."

Protesters said the soldiers had moved against them after midnight, firing in the air and using sticks to break up the remnants of a demonstration urging the military to enact deeper reforms including a complete overhaul of the cabinet. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has been ruling Egypt since President Hosni Mubarak stepped down in the face of a mass uprising, apologized, said there had been no order to assault the protest and the incident was unintentional.

Protesters detained overnight would be released, it said, without stating how many of them there were. It said "infiltrators" had thrown bottles and rocks at soldiers.

"What happened last night was ... the result of unintentional altercations between the military police and the children of the revolution," the council said on a Facebook page that has become a main tool in its public relations effort.

Ashraf Omar, a demonstrator, said soldiers had used tasers and batons against the protesters. "I thought things would change. I wanted to give the government a chance but there is no hope with this regime," he said.

The military council has promised constitutional changes leading to free and fair elections within six months. The judicial council tasked with drafting the constitutional reforms is expected to announce its proposals soon.

As it manages domestic affairs for the first time in decades, the military also wants Egyptians to get back to work to revive an economy drained by weeks of turmoil unleashed by the mass uprising that toppled Mubarak on February 11.

Thousands of people had gathered in Tahrir Square Friday to press broader demands including the replacement of the prime minister, who was appointed by the ousted president in the last weeks of his rule and had long served his administration.

As day broke, a few dozen protesters left in the square flagged down motorists, telling them that the army had attacked the protest. A number of the activists held aloft signs declaring "the army betrayed the people."

One taxi driver remonstrated with a protester, telling him: "The people can't find food to eat." His view reflected the feelings of those Egyptians who believe continued protests are obstructing a return to normality.

FOR NOW, MILITARY APPEARS HESITANT ON FURTHER REFORM

Witnesses said they saw several protesters fall to the ground but it was not clear if they were wounded and if so, how seriously. Protesters were heard yelling and shouting as they were chased down side streets surrounding Tahrir Square.

The protesters want the resignation of Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq as well as the removal of other ministers associated with Mubarak's rule and the immediate release of remaining political detainees. A partial cabinet reshuffle has not satisfied them.

Opposition groups want a complete break with the past in the run up to democratic elections promised by the military.

Having committed to constitutional changes and democratic elections, the military appears reluctant to enact further reforms, a Western diplomat said. The military council appears to want to leave further reforms to an elected civilian government, the diplomat added.

The military appeared to want to "get out from under the obligation" of government, the diplomat added.

An anti-corruption campaign targeting prominent figures in Mubarak's era is one of the clearest signs yet of a break with the past. The foreign ministry has instructed governments overseas to freeze the assets of Mubarak and his family.

Several former ministers and businessmen linked to the ruling party are also under investigation.

In the latest case, investigators have ordered the detention of former Information Minister Anas el-Fekky for 15 days on charges of profiteering and wasting public funds, the state news agency MENA said Saturday.

(Additional reporting by Yasmine Saleh and Mohamed Abdellah; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Caroline Drees)

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Comments (2)
“The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s best organized political group, and others are particularly concerned about the key portfolios of defense, interior, justice and foreign affairs,”

So this is The Muslim Brotherhood keeping out of politics – controlling who goes into the key portfolios of Government.

Egyptians citizens it appears if your revolution was about increasing your say in your future it is not going to be that way if The Muslim Brotherhood has its way.

Egyptians if you run with the wolves prepare to be devoured or worse to become a wolf yourself.

Egyptians must be sure to understand there is a price to be paid enabling those with military and or political might who do not truly represent your aspirations for the future to be allowed to take the lead for the lack of an alternative – ask the Romans and the Iranians.

The citizens of Egypt and particularly the Egyptian military should read Plato’s Republic for inspiration in framing the new constitution.

The degree of violence used to create any entity invariably creates an entity of equal or increased violence to maintain it for the template of transition and nature of its beginning recognizes its own vulnerability and as it succeeded in violence, violence becomes the norm. Unless this is recognized and textual blockers are specifically put in place to ameliorate this violence reoccurring little if anything has in essence been achieved.

Feb 26, 2011 12:22am EST  --  Report as abuse
If you run with the wolves prepare to be devoured or worse to become a wolf yourself.

The current revolutionaries in the Middle East and Africa must be sure to understand there is a price to be paid enabling those with military and/or political might who do not truly represent your aspirations for the future to be allowed to take the lead for the lack of an alternative – ask the Romans and the Iranians.

The twitter generation had better hold its nerve and get back on the streets to underline which version of the future they want, one founded in sixth century tribal ethics or one based on twenty first century pluralistic ethics. At stake amongst many are women’s rights and the ability to hold different view points without your head needing to be detached from your body.

We are now seeing the inevitable the Brotherhood of Islam coming out behind the covers in Egypt and demanding their version of a Democracy one where Democracy cannot exist except as a label only. The new generation’s possibilities for controlling their future, particularly women, will be lost unless the twitter generation confronts this evil. It starts off benign enough and then the pressure and terror builds to where the Brotherhood and similar organizations across the regions will own the streets and own the process of political change.

As with all revolutions the demand for Freedom inevitably gets swallowed by those with the most weaponry or capacity to make noise and fear on the streets.

Get out there twitters this is not over yet until the inks dry on the constitution and even then you will need to be vigilant.

Feb 26, 2011 4:36am EST  --  Report as abuse
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