20 Dead as Clashes Rock Cairo for 3rd Day

Posted November 21st, 2011 at 6:50 am (UTC-5)
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Egypt's Health Ministry says 20 people have been killed and more than 1,700 wounded in three days of clashes between police and protesters as security forces continue to fight with pro-democracy activists in nationwide demonstrations.

VOA's correspondent in Cairo said Monday protesters continue to hold central Tahrir Square, with security forces firing tear gas at stone-throwing demonstrators. Police are attempting to clear the square, where activists camped out for a third consecutive night. The protesters accuse Egypt's military rulers of not moving quickly enough to return the country to civilian rule.

Egyptian police and troops had briefly dispersed the activists Sunday by firing tear gas, birdshot and rubber bullets, but the protesters retook the square later in the day. Anti-government demonstrations have since spread to several other Egyptian cities, including Alexandria and Suez.

Many of the demonstrators have been chanting “The people want to topple the field marshal,” a reference to Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, leader of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. The Tantawi-led council took power in February when a popular uprising ousted autocratic President Hosni Mubarak.

Pro-democracy activists have criticized the council for setting guidelines for a new constitution that would keep some military affairs beyond civilian control. The activists also want the military rulers to stop putting civilians on trial in military courts.

Egypt's military-led government held an emergency meeting Sunday and promised to begin staggered parliamentary elections as planned on November 28. Some opposition activists accuse the military council of provoking the violence as a pretext for postponing the elections and extending their tenure.

The protest-related violence began early Saturday as police moved into Tahrir Square to remove hundreds of people who camped on the site after a mass anti-government rally Friday.