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Violence in Tahrir for fifth straight day--19 political parties call for million man march on Friday to protest killings--13 killed since Friday; 164 detained--ban Ki-moon condemned the use of "excessive" force against protesters--second round of polls overshadowed--France offers help to rebuild library.

--Violence in Tahrir for Fifth Straight Day

--19 Political Parties Call for Million Man March on Friday to Protest Killings

--13 Killed Since Friday; 164 Detained

--Ban Ki-moon Condemned the Use of "Excessive" Force against Protesters

--Second Round of Polls Overshadowed

--France Offers Help to Rebuild Library

Egyptian police and soldiers fired weapons and used batons and teargas for a fifth day on Tuesday in the latest security operation to clear Cairo's central Tahrir Square of opponents of army rule. The sound of heavy gunfire rang out across the square as armed security forces charged hundreds of protesters attempting to hold their ground, activists and a Reuters witness said. Before the latest security charge, protesters had been trying to tear down a brick wall the army had put up to block access to parliament, which is located beside the square. A security source told Reuters some protesters wanted to remove the wall in order to reach parliament and destroy it.

Medical sources have said 13 people have been killed since Friday, but the protesters say the latest attack produced more casualties. "Some of those who fell had gunshot wounds to the legs," Ismail said. Hundreds more were wounded and scores have been detained in attempts to disperse protests in and around Tahrir Square, hub of the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in February. Politicians and members of parliament who had been staging a sit-in nearby tried to enter the square but were forced to turn back as the pitched gun battle raged on, Ismail said.

Nineteen different political and cultural movements released a statement on Monday calling for a million-man march in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday, December 23, to protest military rule. The various groups are urging all factions to set aside their political differences and rally under the single slogan, "Down with military rule," AL AHRAM said. The statement stressed that the aim of the proposed Friday demonstration was to "regain the nation's honor," which had been tarnished by the military following the February departure of longstanding president Hosni Mubarak.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the use of "excessive" force against the protests, which have deepened a rift among Egyptians over the role of the army and cast a shadow over the country's first free election in decades. An army general told a news conference that "evil forces" wanted to sow chaos and said soldiers had shown "self-restraint" despite provocation by those trying to burn down buildings and create discord between the army and the people.

The human rights watchdog Amnesty International called on arms suppliers to stop sending small arms and ammunition to Egypt's military and security forces in the wake of the violent crackdown on protesters. Reporters Without Borders said the army's "systematic use of violence against media personnel," was blocking access to information in and around the square. Soldiers have been filmed using batons to beat protesters, even after they have fallen to the ground, while many protesters hurled stones.

"Hitler's Incinerators"

In one incident, a government building housing historic books was set on fire. "What is your feeling when you see Egypt and its history burn in front of you?" retired General Abdel Moneim Kato, an adviser to the military, told the AL-SHOROUK newspaper. "Yet you worry about a vagrant who should be burnt in Hitler's incinerators." The latest violence broke out just after the second stage of a six-week election for Egypt's new parliament that starts a slow countdown to the army's return to barracks. The military has pledged to hand power to an elected president by July

General Adel Amara, member of the Higher Military Council said that protesters were making "a bad use of freedom" and brought up that one soldier had died and dozens were wounded, wrote the pan-Arab daily ASHARQ AL AWSAT. He emphasized that that the armed forces are committed to the highest degree of restraint with protesters, who he accused of trying to provoke soldiers and of trying to storm the Parliament and the Council of Ministers. He also accused unnamed parties that are planning for "the destruction of the State" and criticized the media coverage of events. He warned "of a scheme to burn down parliament."

An army source said 164 people had been detained. A security source said a 26-year-old man had died in custody, although the cause of death was not immediately clear. The state news agency MENA said the public prosecutor had detained 123 people accused of resisting the authorities, throwing rocks at the army and police, and setting fire to government buildings. The prosecutor had released 53 others.

"From the start of the revolution, the evil forces have wanted to drag Egypt into chaos, putting the army into confrontation with the people," General Adel Amara said. "What is happening does not belong with the revolution and its pure youth, who never wanted to bring down this nation." He said troops had faced people wielding knives, petrol bombs and other weapons, and that those guarding state buildings had a right to self-defense. Many Egyptians want to focus on building democratic institutions, not street activism, but have nevertheless been shocked by the tactics of security forces in and around Tahrir. Video footage showed two soldiers dragging a woman lying on the ground by her shirt, exposing her underwear, then clubbing and kicking her. General Amara described it as an isolated incident that was being investigated. He also said the army had not given orders to clear Tahrir Square by force.

Election Overshadowed

Ban Ki-moon's office said he was "highly alarmed by the excessive use of force employed by the security forces against protesters, and calls for the transitional authorities to act with restraint and uphold human rights, including the right to peaceful protest." The violence has overshadowed the election, which is set to give Islamists the biggest bloc in parliament. Western powers, long friendly with Mubarak and other Arab strongmen who kept a lid on Islamists, have watched warily as Islamist parties have swept elections in Morocco, Tunisia and now Egypt following this year's Arab uprisings.

The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) has declared that its electoral lists won 37.2 percent of votes in the second phase of elections for Egypt's lower house, the People's Assembly. Only the second constituency in the Giza governorate has not yet announced the results of its vote count, according to the statement made by the FJP late Sunday. The FJP said it won a total of 3.17 million out of 10.86 million valid votes for seats contested through the list-based candidacy system. The FJP revealed it will compete in the runoffs for this phase with 47 candidates: 10 in Sharqiya, nine in Giza, four in Monufiya, six in Beni Suef, one in Ismailia, one in Suez, two in Aswan and four in Sohag.

Turnout in the second round of Egypt's parliamentary election reached 67 percent, according to Abdel Moez Ibrahim, the head of the high elections commission. Ibrahim was speaking at a news conference on Sunday. His announcement was published by AL MASRY AL YOUM Monday. More than 12 million voters cast their ballots on Wednesday and Thursday in nine of the country's 27 provinces. The total number of eligible voters is almost 19 million. There will be a run-off in most of the constituencies next Wednesday, as few individual candidates managed to secure a majority of votes.

Revolutionary youth candidates running independently or within political parties performed poorly in the second phase of the parliamentary elections held in nine different governorates. Members of the 25 January Revolutionary Youth Coalition attributed the loss to their lack of experience, saying they should have run under a united coalition. "They also did not have sufficient funding," said coalition member Mohamed Saeed. Sherif al-Rouby, member of the April 6 Youth Movement, agreed. "They had no money to hold rallies," Rouby said. "Others spent millions on campaigning." Rouby also said the media played a role in tarnishing their image. "They were accused of receiving funds from abroad," he said, reported AL MASRY AL YOUM

Hard-core activists have camped in Tahrir since a protest against army rule on November 18, which was sparked by the army-backed cabinet's proposals to permanently shield the military from civilian oversight in the new constitution. Tough security tactics against angry youths also sparked a flare-up last month in which 42 people were killed, wrote the pan-Arab daily AL HAYAT.

Some activists asked protesters to stop hurling stones on Sunday, but they refused. Other activists handed over to the army people they said were making petrol bombs. The violence has deepened the frustration of many Egyptians tired of months of unrest that has left the economy in tatters. "There are people who wait for any problem and seek to amplify it ... The clashes won't stop. There are street children who found shelter in Tahrir," said Ali el-Nubi, a postal worker.

France expressed on Monday readiness to cooperate with Egypt to rebuild the historic Egyptian Scientific Academy which was burnt Saturday during Cairo fresh violence. In a press briefing, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bernard Valero said his country was ready to help Egypt rebuild the historic building and will welcome any requests from the Egyptian government in this regard, wrote ASHARQ AL AWSAT. He described the burning of the scientific complex as "a tragedy for the world culture" that shows the serious dangers facing humanitarian heritage in Egypt, Kuwait's news agency KUNA reported. Valero called on Egyptian authorities to open a transparent investigation into the tragedy and to take all measures to protect the unique Egyptian historical heritage. The French official urged Egyptian authorities to return to dialogue and to guarantee the exercise of freedom of expression and peaceful protest.


"Who's to blame?"--asked the AL-GOMHURRIYA, posing the question on the state-owned paper's front page over a crude collage of recent violence. "The clashes are ongoing, the accusations mutual and Egypt is the victim," read the sub-headline about a topic that continued to dominate the nation's front pages on Monday, wrote AL MASRY AL YOUM in its media roundup.

According to AL-AHRAM, the three days of uninterrupted fighting between protesters and armed forces has left 11 dead and 373 wounded. The state-owned paper pointed out in its front page headline that "the body of an ex-convict was found in the General Authorities of Roads and Bridges building," which had been vandalized and set on fire during the recent clashes. The same headline also featured an impressively specific "first-hand" account by an eyewitness who claimed to have counted "500 thugs and street children carrying out acts of vandalism according to specific orders."

Al-Shorouk, Al-Wafd and Youm7 all featured breakdowns of the clashes, noting developments such as the violence spilling out on Sheikh Rihan Street, the unprecedented extent of participation in the fighting by students and young children, and the undeniable involvement of "suspicious elements." All papers commented on the swell of public outrage following the widespread circulation of multiple photos depicting women being brutally abused at the hands of armed soldiers.

Party paper Al-Wafd, in its summary of the violence that occurred from Saturday night to Sunday morning, reported that on two occasions protesters successfully captured a soldier, only to "strip him of his clothes" and "beat him incessantly as payback for his colleagues' abuse of women." The soldiers, unconscious, were removed from the scene by ambulance services.

Al-Wafd also featured a brief report on the role played by children in the recent violence, specifically as human shields for supposed protesters. Youm7, which ran photos of armed soldiers brandishing machine guns ("rashashat") on its front page, featured a "special file" titled "Sins of the HMC," which highlights the many violations committed by ruling Higher Military Council in its response to the protests. The paper also reported on the HMC's new video campaign, in which it posted its own videos of the clashes on Facebook. "Communique 90," the first video posted, gives viewers a chance to witness acts of vandalism from the council's choppily edited perspective.
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Publication:The Daily Middle East Reporter (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:7EGYP
Date:Dec 20, 2011
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