Saturday, December 17, 2011

Egypt's Military Wont Go Quietly

The military regime that replaced ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak has fallen into the same routine of suppressing protesters who question the authority of the regime. The military is again violently and brutally attacking protesters on the streets of Cairo.
The contradiction in the military-led government’s statements and actions appeared to represent a shift in strategy by the military council. After trying for months to preserve some credibility and collaboration with the Egyptian political elite, the ruling generals on Saturday scarcely acknowledged the demands of their newly appointed civilian advisory council that that the military cease its violence and apologize to demonstrators.

Instead, as the crackdown on the protest entered its second day, the military council appeared to be playing to those Egyptians impatient with the continuing protests and eager for a return stability. Crowds of supporters turned out downtown on Saturday morning to cheer on the military police, hand them drinks of water, and help them close off Tahrir Square from demonstrators massing to get in.

The prime minister, Kamel Ganzouri, issued his denial that the military had or would use force in a news conference on Saturday morning after more than 24 hours of street fighting in front of the military-occupied Parliament building that left nine dead from bullet wounds and hundreds wounded. For more than twelve hours on Friday, men in plain clothes, accompanied by a few in uniform, stood on top of the “people’s assembly” and hurled chunks of concrete and stone taken from inside the building down at the crowd of demonstrators several stories below.

On Saturday morning, another parliamentary building adjacent to Tahrir Square burst into flames, although it was unclear who started the blaze. Firefighters guarded by rows of military police officers struggled for hours to put it out.

The military-led cabinet said in a statement that protesters had deliberately set fire to the building, which housed an archive of historical books and documents, while protesters said it had caught fire while under military control. The protesters had made heavy use of Molotov cocktails and set fire to a Transportation Ministry building the night before, although men atop the military-controlled office buildings were also seen hurling gasoline bombs.

Around the same time the fire broke out, several witnesses said, hundreds of military police officers in riot gear had finally chased the demonstrators from in front of the Parliament building into Tahrir Square and then cleared the square of a small tent city of demonstrators. They burned the tents, leaving Tahrir Square in flames and sending a thick plume of black smoke curling over downtown.

Many witnesses said that the charging soldiers had used clubs to beat anyone they could catch, including passers-by. A young woman getting off a bus and trying to catch a taxi to work was grabbed by soldiers and thrown to the ground, before a group of passers-by rescued her and tucked into her a passing vehicle.

As the military police grabbed a man by the arms near the Egyptian Museum, he shouted, “I don’t have anything to do with that, I was just going to work!”

Over the next several hours, phalanxes of military police officers repeatedly assaulted the square, temporarily retreating and then charging back in.

The sirens of ambulances squealed from inside the square. “Take care! They will beat anyone,” a man in a suit shouted as he fled the square toward a Nile bridge before an advancing line of military police.

Video shown on a private Egyptian television network in the morning showed several military police officers using batons to beat civilians as they lay on the ground of Tahrir Square, and one appeared to be unconscious.
The military regime is utilizing the same tactics as the ancien regime; lying about its tactics and brutalizations and trying to play one faction off another so as to remain in power and maintain legitimacy in the eyes of elites who they think are growing impatient with the protests.

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