A deadly confrontation between protestors and Egyptian security forces on Friday has left two dead and more than 150 wounded in Cairo, the Egyptian capital.
Tensions heightened after one activist alleged police abuse during his arrest on Thursday near the protest camp outside of Egypt’s cabinet building, Al-Jazeera reports. Photos of his injuries appeared on the internet and news of the event spread quickly through the camp, igniting an already tense stand-off between protestors and the authorities.
Violence began when protestors reportedly threw stones at police stationed outside of the cabinet building, where the protest camp has been stationed for three weeks. Reuters reports that the number of protesters involved soon reached 10,000. The police responded with water cannons and batons in attempts to disperse the activists. Police also entered the protest camp and dismantled tents. A riot ensued and protestors subsequently set fire to car tires, vehicles, and a government building in the surrounding area.
It is possible that police even fired shots at the group of protestors, as one activist reported seeing bodies with gunshot wounds while at the local morgue. Hisham Shiha, an official from the Health Ministry has confirmed that at least one person had been killed from gunfire, says the BBC.
Protestors have long demanded the immediate transition of power from the current military authority to a civilian government. Egypt’s military has governed the country since Hosni Mubarak was compelled to resign in February 2011 after a popular uprising demanding democratic reforms. The military council has delayed presidential elections until 2012.
Friday’s events occurred the day after the completion of Egypt’s second round of parliamentary elections. Figures show that two Islamist parties, the Freedom and Justice Party, an associate of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Salif al-Nour party stand to hold the majority of seats in the next parliament.
“The council wants to spoil the elections. They don’t want a parliament that has a popular legitimacy unlike them and would challenge their authority. I don’t believe they will hand over power in June” one activist told Reuters. Friday’s clashes are the first significant signs of violence since elections began on November 28.