Sunday, July 24, 2011

Egypt: Armed men attack thousands marching to ministry of defense; 55 injured

Armed men attacked a demonstration heading from Tahrir to the Ministry of Defense on Saturday leaving over 55 injured.

A crowd estimated at around 10,000 people set out from downtown Cairo's Tahrir Square but was stopped from reaching the military headquarters in the eastern Abbasiya neighborhood by a line of army barricades. Along the way, they chanted slogans against the military council's delay in implementing their demands.

Bands of men armed with knives and sticks set upon them from side roads, setting off pitched street battles in which both sides threw punches and hurled rocks. Gunfire was heard, but it was unclear who was shooting.

Riot police fired tear gas at protesters.

One petrol bomb landed near a protester, setting his clothes on fire, and dozens of injured were treated by ambulance crews on the scene.

The health ministry, in a statement carried by the official MENA news agency, said 55 people were injured in the clashes, including six who needed hospital treatment. Other unofficial reports put the number closer to 70-100.

It was not clear who the attackers were. Similar groups of men have tried to break up other protest rallies, and Mubarak's regime often used hired thugs to attack protesters. Some witnesses said they might have been residents or shopkeepers angry at the loss of business as a result of the protests. (more)