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Protesters injured as cops storm Tahrir Square

20 November 2013, 07:43

Cairo - Egyptian riot police backed by armoured vehicles stormed Cairo's Tahrir Square late Tuesday to disperse stone-throwing protesters, firing tear gas and shots to scatter the demonstrators, an AFP reporter said.

A health ministry official said at least 16 people had been injured in the clashes, some with birdshot wounds.

The protesters were marking the anniversary of deadly protests in 2011 against the military which took power between president Hosni Mubarak's overthrow and his now deposed successor Mohammed Morsi's election in June 2012.

Egypt is divided between supporters of Morsi and of the military that overthrew him, but Tuesday's protesters accused both sides of betraying the goals of a 2011 uprising that ousted president Hosni Mubarak.

Clashes erupted near the Arab League's headquarters at the corner of the iconic square, where millions rallied to pressure first Mubarak and then Morsi to resign.

Police fired tear gas and shots at the protesters, who were hurling stones, before storming the square with armoured vehicles, scattering the few hundred protesters into side streets.

Protesters covered their faces to protect themselves from the tear gas and health ministry official Ahmed al-Ansari told AFP 16 people were injured in the violence.

"I am here to retaliate for my friends killed in Mohamed Mahmud," said one protester, referring to 2011 clashes between protesters and police in a street off Tahrir Square.

"No one has brought them their rights," added the young protester, who gave his name as Mohamed.

The interior ministry said it had arrested 14 "rioters", including one in the possession of homemade shotgun, and accused the protesters of trying to storm the Arab League's headquarters.

Massive crackdown

The November 2011 Mohamed Mahmud clashes were the first serious revolt faced by the military junta that had taken charge after Mubarak's resignation in February 2011.

The military handed power to Morsi in June 2012, after he won the country's first free election, but ousted him a year later following mass protests demanding his resignation.

Morsi's ouster ushered in a massive crackdown on his Islamist followers and more than 1,000 were killed in clashes that resulted. Thousands have been arrested.

Tuesday's clashes, however, took place between protesters who oppose both Morsi and the military appointed interim government.

Some of the protesters had been outraged by a monument inaugurated in the square on the eve of the Mohamed Mahmud anniversary.

By Tuesday, protesters had defaced the monument to those killed in the mass protests that helped unseat two presidents in less than three years.

Protesters accused the government and police of revising the history of the Mohamed Mahmud carnage amid a wave of pro-military nationalism following Morsi's overthrow.

"Celebrating in praise of the army is a provocation. We are here today to mourn the martyrs," said Magda al-Masrya, 50, as she took part in a protest in the square early on Tuesday.

Another protester, Reni Rafat, said: "What we need is trials of those responsible [for the deaths in November 2011] and not celebrations".

Mahmoud Hisham, a 21-year-old student, said: "The revolution is still not over.

"In three years we had three systems and three traitors - Mubarak, the military and the Brotherhood."

Neither the Brotherhood nor the Tamarod movement which organised the mass protests that led up to Morsi's overthrow had called for Tuesday's rival demonstrations.



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