25th Mar 2023

Egypt: more violence despite EU appeals

  • Photo taken during anti-Mubarak protest in February - the weekend's violence is the worst since Mubarak fell (Photo: Al Jazeera English)

Security forces launched fresh attacks on protesters in Cairo on Monday (21 November) despite appeals for calm on "all sides" by EU ministers.

The police fired tear gas and broke up a field hospital in Tahrir Square early on Monday under a barrage of paving stones from the mostly young demonstrators outside the interior ministry building, according to newswire reports and tweets from the scene.

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An EU diplomatic source based in Cairo told EUobserver the rest of the city feels subdued but "normal".

"Everybody is talking about it, but there are no reports of any kind of fighting elsewhere. Yesterday people wanted to march from another point to the square, but then we heard no more about it. Now we are hearing there will soon be a new ceasefire," the source said.

The contact added: "The army says that it is not shooting at people. This is the official position of the army."

The ministry of health has said 20 people have been killed and 1,700 wounded, 40 of them security officers, since unrest began 48 hours ago in the worst clashes since the uprising in February which brought down President Hosni Mubarak. Graphic pictures posted on YouTube indicate that live ammunition has been used to deliberately kill people with, for example, shots to the neck.

German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle and British junior minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt in separate statements on Sunday urged "all sides" to stop violence, despite the imbalance in power and casualties.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, speaking on behalf of the 27 EU states, came down more on the side of protesters. "I have expressed my concern in the past about the emergency law and the ongoing military trials. I reiterate that the interim authorities and all parties concerned have the crucial task of listening to the people and protecting their democratic aspirations," she said in her communique.

The protests come eight days before Egypt is to hold its first democratic parliamentary elections after 30 years of the Mubarak regime.

There are no opinion polls. But the popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood party is said to be on the rise. The new parliament will decide when to hold presidential elections, which could be as late as 2013. Army chief Mohamed Hussein Tantawi is to run the country until the presidential vote.

The protests are directed against the field marshall for trying to "steal" the revolution. Violence has also been reported in the towns of Alexandria, Mansoura and Suez.

Meanwhile, the country is feeling the economic effects of its uncertain future. The latest government auction saw nine-month bonds sold at a whopping 14.8 percent and the finance minister has asked the International Monetary Fund for a $3.2 billion bail-out.

Commenting on the situation from a Nato meeting in Canada on Sunday, Nato deputy assistant secretary general James Appathurai said: "The whole region is going through a complicated, difficult process of reform ... I think it’s important for the public not to have unrealistic expectations about how quickly this will happen or that the outcome is necessarily foreseen to be the one we might wish it to be."

Story updated at11am Brussels time on 21 November to add latest figures from health ministry

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