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Middle East
Egypt protesters dispersed by force
Army uses batons to break up demonstrations in capital Cairo demanding purging of Mubarak loyalists from government.
Last Modified: 26 Feb 2011 11:28 GMT
The army, which showed restraint during the revolution, has been accused of going soft on Mubarak loyalists [Reuters]

The Egyptian army has used force to disperse activists gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to demand the removal of Hosni Mubarak loyalists from the interim cabinet.

Egyptian soldiers fired in the air and used batons in the early hours of Saturday to disperse the crowd, the Reuters news agency reported. 

Demonstrators had also gathered in front of the parliament building in Cairo, where police beat protesters and used tasers to suppress the crowds, an Al Jazeera producer in the capital reported.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the ruling military council, later apologised for the military's response and said the situation "wasn't intentional".

In a statement, the council promised such confrontations would not happen again.

The people had gathered to celebrate two weeks since the removal of Mubarak from power and remind the country's new rulers of their promise to guard against a "counter-revolution" of the people's power.

After midnight, when a curfew goes into effect, military police moved in to clear them away and beat protesters, some of whom tried to resist, according to Shady Ghazali, a leading youth activist who said he witnessed the clash.

One man was slapped so hard he bled from his face," Ghazali said.

He and at least four others were detained and taken to a lock-up that already held dozens of other protesters who were apparently arrested throughout the day, he said.

Some of them showed bruises and other signs of mistreatment, he said.

Resignation sought

Protesters say they want the resignation of the government of Ahmed Shafiq, the current prime minister, the immediate release of political prisoners and the issuing of a general amnesty.

Activists urged the military, who had promised there would be "no return to the past" of the Mubarak era, to overhaul the cabinet.

But after midnight, protesters said the military fired in the air, shut off lamp posts and moved in on protesters to force them to leave the square.

"Military police used batons and tasers to hit the protesters," Ahmed Bahgat, one of the protesters, told the Reuters news agency by telephone. "The military is once again using force. But the protesters have not responded."

Protesters left the main centre but many had gathered in surrounding streets, another protester, Mohamed Emad, said.

Witnesses said they saw several protesters fall to the ground but it was not clear if they were wounded or how seriously.

"I am one of thousands of people who stood their ground after the army started dispersing the protesters, shooting live bullets into the air to scare them," Ashraf Omar, a protester, said.

The army officers who moved in on the protesters in Tahrir Square on Friday donned black masks to cover their faces to avoid being identified by protesters, Omar said.

Military buses were parked in the square to take in protesters that were caught, Mohamed Aswany, one protester who had decided to stage a sit-in, told Reuters by telephone.

Protesters were heard yelling and shouting as they were chased down side streets to Tahrir Square.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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