TRNN Exclusive: Army attacks occupation of cabinet office, street fighting into the night, at least nine dead


Story Transcript

JIHAN HAFIZ, TRNN: So much for a peaceful transition to democracy. These were the scenes outside the cabinet building one day after millions of Egyptians voted in the second round of parliamentary elections. Hours after the polling centers closed Thursday evening, state security forces attacked the sit-in outside the cabinet building, flushing protesters into a nearby avenue.

AHMED HASSAN ABDEL AZIZ, STUDENT (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): This happened last night. We took someone who was finally released from the military. They took one of our own called Aboudi. They held him for an hour. After an hour of detainment, we took Aboudi to the Mouneera Hospital. We came back in the morning to find the ministry on fire, and they were pelting rocks at us. They brought the Abedeen thugs and dressed the soldiers in civilian clothing.

JIHAN HAFIZ, TRNN: Soldiers on top of a ministry building bombarded protesters on the street with a barrage of rocks and glass bottles.

SHARIF MASOUB MAHMOUD, UNEMPLOYED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Suddenly as we were turning our backs, we saw batons and rocks flying towards us. The officers were pelting us with rocks from the top of the building. The majority of us are hungry and can’t afford to feed our children, and all the while we would rather starve than not seek justice for our fellow martyrs. Two of my friends are dead. I’ll keep on repeating it: we’ve been under military rule for 30 years! Egypt is not a military state!

HAFIZ: By the afternoon, plainclothes men replaced the soldiers on top of the government buildings, although protesters said they had merely shed their uniforms. They rained rocks down on the crowd below while uniformed soldiers looked on, apparently supervising the battle. The protesters fought back with rocks and Molotov cocktails. The protesters worked together to break up pieces of concrete to defend themselves. Women collected the rocks and brought them to the front lines. For nearly three weeks, protesters have staged a sit-in outside the offices of Egypt’s new prime minister, Kamal Ganzouri, and his cabinet. Even as the Tahrir Square occupation fizzled out a week ago, hundreds of Egyptians maintain the cabinet sit-in, demanding the immediate removal of the military regime. The protesters insist the elections and the appointment of the new prime minister are designed to give the appearance of a transition to civilian rule, while the military council retains power.

AHMED EL GAWHARY, PROTESTER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): I’m boycotting the elections. These elections need to be held under proper conditions. The seed that’s planted needs to be on fertile land and not on dirty ground.

HAFIZ: Violent attacks against protesters since the fall of former president Hosni Mubarak have been frequent. On occasion, the military has succeeded in crushing demonstrations. But at other times, their oppressive measures have backfired, serving only to inflame the popular resistance.

MOHAMMED ALI HASSAN, ELECTRICIAN (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): I saw four soldiers and two police officers grab a woman and drag her. When I tried to protect her, I got hit. A young man lifted me up and tasered me on my chest.

HAFIZ: Those battling government security forces have developed their own defense tactics, using everything and anything at their disposal. Motorcycle ambulances made their way through crowds to retrieve the injured, a tactic protesters used during the battle from Mohammed Mahmoud Street last month. A street clinic was flooded with the injured, including Real News correspondent Reed Lindsay.

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HAFIZ: Now, what you can see here is a makeshift hospital. The medics and the field doctors can set up a clinic almost immediately whenever the violence takes place. As you can see, this is a vast clinic that spans from one side of the street to another to take in all the injuries that are coming in. But unlike last time, there is no tear gas here. Most of the injuries coming in are from rocks and from metal pipes being thrown from the top of the ministry cabinet by what people are saying are thugs and what many claim to be army officers dressed in civilian clothing.

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HAFIZ: During the evening prayer, the army began shooting live rounds into the crowd, killing at least three, including a young doctor and a prominent Islamic sheikh.

UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Here’s the bullet! Here it is! The military shot that! It hit the street, thank God! He wants me to go home to my children! Field Marshal, we’re not going to leave you alone! We’re the Tahrir revolutionaries!

UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): This morning there was live ammunition. There were moments the officers used their pistols and shot at us with live ammunition.

HAFIZ: As of Saturday evening, nine people were reported killed and hundreds more injured. Late into the evening, government forces continued to battle demonstrators along the main avenue outside the cabinet. Injured protesters continued to flood makeshift clinics late into the night. This clinic opened at midnight at the entrance to a bank and began receiving patients immediately.

ISMAA FAHMY, DOCTOR (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): The government apologized about the incidents in Mohammed Mahmoud Street. But now they’re making the same mistake. And the people are right to be angry. The government cannot be trusted, and we can’t get involved with them again. So, based on what’s been happening, I think the revolutionaries are right.

HAFIZ: The volunteer doctors and health workers here attended the wounded in Tahrir Square during the January Revolution, and then again during the November uprising. They moved their clinic from Tahrir Square two weeks ago and set up at the cabinet sit-in. After that clinic was destroyed by security forces, they relocated here. But this time they lasted only a few hours before once again being pushed out by soldiers. By daybreak, the protesters were forced into Tahrir Square just two blocks away. Dozens of government thugs appeared on a nearby government building and pelted rocks down on the protesters. Newly appointed prime minister Kamal Ganzouri blamed external forces for violence and insisted that the military police had exercised self-control in dealing with the protesters, a claim ridiculed here on the street.

FADY, PROTESTER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): As we were walking to check up on people, we saw a lot of thugs throwing rocks under the military’s protection. We’re wondering how it is that the military is not only standing silently watching this, but they’re also helping them hit us as well.

HAFIZ: Shortly after the prime minister finished his national broadcast, the army, the police, and plainclothes thugs rushed into Tahrir Square, beating and arresting everyone in sight, destroying tents and makeshift clinics, and attacking both doctors and journalists. But protests around the square raged throughout the day, as funeral processions made their way to Tahrir. Jihan Hafiz for The Real News in Cairo, Egypt.

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DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.