Dozens have been injured after fresh clashes broke out between security forces and anti-government protesters near Egypt's defense ministry building in capital Cairo, media reports citing officials said Friday.
The development follows the death of at least 20 people in an attack by unidentified assailants on a sit-in demonstration staged outside the Egyptian Ministry of Defense building in Cairo on Wednesday. That demonstration was to protest against the barring of an ultraconservative Salafist preacher from contesting in the forthcoming presidential elections.
Earlier on Friday, thousands had gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the nerve center of last year's uprising that topped the government of President Hosni Mubarak, to protest against Wednesday's violence. They believe Wednesday's violence was orchestrated by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf).
Some of the protesters then marched towards the defense ministry in the capital's Abbasiya district, where they were confronted by security forces. Fierce clashes broke out between the two sides after protesters ignored warnings and attempted to break through a protective ring of barbed wire.
The ensuing clashes saw security forces and protests throwing rocks and other objects at each other. Security forces later fired teargas and used water cannons to disperse the agitated protesters. They eventually brought the situation under control, not before more than 60 people were injured in the violence. A curfew has since been imposed on the area.
Friday's violence occurred as Egypt was preparing to hold its first presidential elections after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak last year by a popular unrest against his decades-long rule. The ruling military council that succeeded Mubarak is due to hand over power to the new President on July 1.
Earlier in April, Egypt's election commission had barred ten presidential candidates from running for the May 23-24 election, including Salafist leader Hazem Abu Ismail, former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, and Muslim Brotherhood leader Khairat al-Shater.
While Omar Suleiman was disqualified for failing to get enough signatures to endorse his candidacy, the commission cited previous convictions for barring both Khairat al-Shater and Ayman Nour, a former liberal MP who challenged Hosni Mubarak for the presidency in 2005, from contesting the elections.
The Higher Presidential Election Commission (HPEC) said Abu Ismail was disqualified because his late mother held U.S. citizenship. Although the Salafist leader has strongly denied that claim, the Egyptian law stipulates that the decisions of the election commission cannot be appealed.
Front-runners among the remaining candidates are ex-Foreign Minister as well as former Arab League chief Amr Moussa, independent Islamist candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh and Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) leader Mohammed Mursi. If none of the presidential aspirants manage to secure the required 50 percent votes for an outright victory in this month's elections, a second round between the top two would be held in June.
by RTT Staff Writer
For comments and feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org