Image: Egyptian protesters throw stones at riot police during clashes in Tahrir square
Khaled Desouki  /  AFP - Getty Images
Egyptian protesters throw stones at riot police during clashes in Tahrir square in Cairo in the early hours of June 29, 2011. Egyptian security forces fired tear gas on protesters in Cairo during violent clashes that erupted and left several injured. AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)
updated 6/28/2011 10:24:35 PM ET 2011-06-29T02:24:35

Egyptian security forces firing tear gas clashed with more than 5,000 rock-throwing protesters in central Cairo late Tuesday, leaving dozens injured in the latest unrest to rattle the country, witnesses and medical officials said.

Clouds of tear gas and the wail of police sirens engulfed Tahrir Square as lines of security forces in riot gear battled to regain control of the central plaza from the demonstrators, many of them family members of the more than 850 people killed during the revolution that toppled Egypt's longtime ruler, Hosni Mubarak.

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The families are frustrated with what they perceive as the slow prosecution of security officers believed to be responsible for the deaths of some 850 protesters during the 18-day uprising.

Rocks and shattered glass littered the streets around Tahrir, as protesters chanted: "Down with the military junta." Injured demonstrators lay on the ground, some bloodied and dazed, before the clashes ended after Interior Minister Mansour el-Essawy issued an order before dawn Wednesday for the security services to stand down.

The confrontation began Tuesday, when security forces cleared a sit-in outside the state TV building by the families of the slain protesters, said Nourredine, an engineer who gave only his first name.

"I was in front of the state TV building this morning when the security forces attacked," he said. "Since then, things have been escalating."

The protesters regrouped Tuesday evening outside the Interior Ministry, where rumor had it that two demonstrators wounded earlier in the day had been taken. It was not immediately clear what sparked the violence outside the ministry, but eventually protesters were hurling stones and security forces firing volleys of tear gas and blocking off streets around the building.

The clashes then shifted to nearby Tahrir Square — the epicenter of Egypt's revolution. In a sight unseen since the early days of the uprising, lines of central security troops in riot gear sealed off the main streets leading into the square, while dozens of security vehicles were parked in side streets.

Image: Egyptian man
Khalil Hamra  /  AP
An Egyptian man passes by a banner picturing people killed by Egyptian security forces during the revolution, with Arabic words on top that read, "the martyrs of 25th of Jan. revolution."

The government response shocked many of the protesters, who compared it to the heavy-handed tactics used by the security forces before Mubarak's fall.

"The security forces' violence is the same," said Al Maataz Hassan, an engineer. "They accuse the people of being thugs, then crackdown. It's the same mentality as before the revolution."

Tuesday's clashes, perhaps of the most serious between security forces and protesters since the revolution, are an offshoot of the tumultuous transitional period the country is going through as it struggles to shift from an authoritarian to democratic system.

That transition took a step forward earlier Tuesday with an Egyptian court's ordering the dissolution of more than 1,750 municipal councils, seen as one of the last vestiges of Hosni Mubarak's rule.

The administrative court decision, announced by presiding judge Kamal el-Lamei, meets a major demand of the protest movement that drove Mubarak from power.

The local councils, with over 50,000 seats filled by elections widely viewed as rigged, were a backbone of support for Mubarak's ruling party. They became particularly important after 2005 constitutional amendments required presidential candidates to obtain support from a quota of local council officials, as well as from national parliament members. Critics saw this as a stepping stone for Mubarak's son, Gamal, to succeed his father in office.

The court decision can still be appealed, but popular opposition may make it difficult for Egypt's current military rulers to challenge it.

Hamdi el-Fakharani, an engineer who filed the court case against the councils, said 97 percent of council members belonged to Mubarak's now-dissolved National Democratic Party.

"They had already begun campaigning, using municipal services to influence people in favor of the party's comeback and saying the revolution has negatively impacted the economy," he said.

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He said he was joined in the complaint by 10 independent council members who attested to council corruption.

The dismissal of all council members will leave Egypt's municipalities under the control of unelected local executives and provincial officials, until new councils are elected.

A major rally is planned next week to, among other things, show support for dissolving the local bodies' membership. Activists say the councils, criticized as corrupt and flush with government funds, could help the campaigns of supporters of the former regime in parliamentary elections, scheduled for September.

"This is, of course, an important decision. If we are having parliamentary elections, these municipal councils were set to play a big role," said Hafez Abu Saada, a human rights lawyer who monitored and criticized the councils' 2008 elections.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Emboldened Egyptians call for change

Photos: Egypt bloggers persistent in protests

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  1. Meeting where they can

    Egypt has the largest and most active blogosphere in the Arab world, and their work is done at great personal risk, facing arrest, prison, torture -- and even death, in some cases, says British photojournalist Anastasia Taylor-Lind, who is based in the Middle East. In this photo, the 'godfather' of Egyptian bloggers Wael Abbas, right, with fellow activists Kareem El Behiry, center, and Ahmed El Sayad, left, at Al Borsah Cafe in downtown Cairo, Egypt in 2010. Many bloggers are the children of Cairo’s intellectuals, radicals and activists and they gather late into the night in the shabby downtown street cafes their parents inhabited in the 1960s and 70s. (Anastasia Taylor-Lind / VII Mentor) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Satellites offer access

    A view over the satellite-topped rooftops of downtown Cairo, Egypt. Egypt, the Middle East’s business leader, is unique among its Arab neighbors in that it does not restrict the flow of information online. This is due to the “Ministry of Communications and Information Technology “ which has a policy of keeping the Internet open to encourage commerce and investment. In addition, the government also promotes a one laptop per child policy and offers payment plans for as little as 45 Egyptian pounds ($8) a month to students who wish to purchase computers. (Anastasia Taylor-Lind / VII Mentor) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Long, familiar effort

    Blogger Nora Younis reads the morning paper on her balcony at home in Maadi, Cairo, Egypt. She is also a journalist and editor for Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, and writes about human rights abuses, something she has spent years documenting. In 2008, she and an activist from another country shared the annual Human Rights award from the Human Rights First Organization. (Anastasia Taylor-Lind / VII Mentor) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Bringing bloggers to the fore

    Ehab El Zelaky, Web editor for the independent newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm, pictured in the newsroom in Cairo, Egypt. El Zelaky is considered one of the first Egyptian print editors to engage bloggers in the print media. The bloggers are supported by IT specialists, human rights lawyers, and independent newspaper editors. (Anastasia Taylor-Lind / VII Mentor) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Making and following the news

    Ahmed Garbeia, a freelance software engineer who organizes workshops for bloggers, is pictured at his family home in Al Moqatam, Cairo, Egypt. (Anastasia Taylor-Lind / VII Mentor) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Initially, driven by reports of women's torture

    Human rights blogger Noha Atef poses for a portrait on the street outside Al Shorouk newspaper offices, where she also works as a journalist, in Mohandessin, Cairo, Egypt. Her interest in her country's human-rights abuses was sparked by reading a report about how women were tortured in police stations. Online young Egyptian activists speak freely and can escape political repression by challenging the regime openly on their blogs. They write about the country’s record of human rights abuses, police torture and social injustices, often distributing information about events and incidents that would otherwise be unreported. (Anastasia Taylor-Lind / VII Mentor) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A break from the pressure

    Blogger and political activist Shahinez Abdelsalam pictured in a cafe in downtown Cairo, Egypt. The following day Abdelsalam emigrated to France because she was 'too tired' of living and working in Egypt. Bloggers,, says photojournalist Anastasia Taylor-Lind, "are routinely harassed, imprisoned, sometimes tortured and occasionally murdered." (Anastasia Taylor-Lind / VII Mentor) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Wide-ranging views

    Socialist blogger Hossam El Hamalawy in his office at Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, where he also works as a journalist, in Garden City, Cairo, Egypt. The Southern California-based Levantine Cultural Center has described him as an "an outspoken proponent of human rights, labor movements, and free speech." (Anastasia Taylor-Lind / VII Mentor) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Defense help

    Lawyer Gamel Eid, founder of The Arab Network for Human Rights Information, is pictured at work in his office in downtown Cairo, Egypt. Cyber activism, however, comes at a price in Egypt and bloggers are routinely arrested and imprisoned for speaking out. During these detainments, police torture is not uncommon and there are currently more than 20 people serving prison sentences for “crimes” connected to cyber activism in the country. Eid's group helps defend many bloggers when they are arrested and tried by the government. (Anastasia Taylor-Lind / VII Mentor) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Activist on Facebook

    Ahmed Maher, blogger and founder of the Facebook activists' group 6th of April Youth Movement, smokes a shisha pipe while checking e-mails at Takeiba cafe in downtown Cairo. Egypt. Egyptian bloggers use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to get people onto the street by rallying anti-government protesters, organizing workers’ strikes and mobilizing demonstrators in cities across the country. (Anastasia Taylor-Lind / VII Mentor) Back to slideshow navigation
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