Video: Demands to topple military grow stronger in Egypt

  1. Transcript of: Demands to topple military grow stronger in Egypt

    SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, anchor: We move now to Egypt and the violence and chaos in Cairo . The protests continued today for the fifth day, despite the fact that the Egyptian military has now agreed to accelerate the transition to civilian rule. But with at least 38 dead, there is no sign tonight that the tens of thousands of people who have been taking to the streets are inclined to stop. Our chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel is in Cairo again for us tonight. Richard , good evening.

    RICHARD ENGEL reporting: Good evening, Savannah . As you can see, there are no signs at all that these protests are letting up. Now some political parties in this country have accepted the military's compromise and have already begun negotiations to form a new government. But it's not enough for these protesters who want an immediate end to military rule . In Tahrir Square , no backing down. Peaceful protesters demanding democracy from an entrenched military which is beating them back. But is that the full picture? We left Tahrir , went down a nearby alley. It leads to the front line, where demonstrators have clashed with security forces for five days. Today protesters flipped over cars preparing defensive barricades. They showed us tear gas canisters and shotgun shells, evidence, they claim, of the brutality against them. Their anger is directed at Egypt 's military. The people want to try the field marshal, they shouted, referring to the head of the Egyptian military . As we went further, we found something unexpected. Soldiers were trying to prevent clashes. These soldiers have set up a blocking position to keep back demonstrators. But what's different this time is that the army is trying to show restraint. It's an attempt by the military to calm things down here. The army had positioned its troops and vehicles between the protesters and rows of poorly trained, often violent riot police . These men in black are especially hated by the demonstrators. The army's patience with the protesters was running short. What happens now? These people are here.

    Lieutenant Colonel ISLAM GHAFER: We try to convince them to go back to Tahrir .

    ENGEL: And what if they don't go? What if they don't go back?

    Lt. Col. GHAFER: The army will withdraw and the police will go and fight with them.

    ENGEL: Minutes later, protesters started throwing stones. Up went the riot shields , but the army held fire. Then more stones. And as dusk fell, those riot police in black fired volley after volley of tear gas right over the soldiers ' heads. We heard soldiers telling the police to stop. Everyone started to choke. Some soldiers helped the demonstrators. With a gas mask on, we jumped into an ambulance. A policeman gas gagging on the gas he fired, so was a woman, a demonstrator. The ambulances streamed into Tahrir Square with the injured. They were greeted like heroes, and the crowd's demands to topple the military only grew stronger. Later this week, Savannah , could prove to be decisive. They are planning another million person demonstration after Friday prayers.

    GUTHRIE: All right, Richard . And I guess the question for Americans, anyway, is where the US comes down on all this. On the one hand, the US has been supportive of the protest movement in Egypt , but it also has these strong ties to Egypt 's military.

    ENGEL: The Egyptian military is critical for the United States , and it's also one of the only functioning organizations left in this country. It's pro-American. It maintains a peace treaty with Israel . But these people want to see it toppled. And if that happens, the Muslim Brotherhood would be immensely empowered, and that could lead to a more anti- American Egypt .

    GUTHRIE: Well, it's an incredibly complicated picture. Richard Engel in Cairo again for us tonight, thank you.

By
updated 11/23/2011 7:14:55 PM ET 2011-11-24T00:14:55

International criticism of Egypt's military rulers mounted Wednesday as police clashed for a fifth day with protesters demanding the generals relinquish power immediately. A rights group raised the death toll for the wave of violence to at least 38.

The United Nations strongly condemned authorities for what it deemed an excessive use of force. Germany, one of Egypt's top trading partners, called for a quick transfer of power to a civilian government. The United States and the U.N. secretary general have already expressed their concern over the use of violence against mostly peaceful protesters.

Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, deplored the role of Egypt's security forces in attempting to suppress protesters.

"Some of the images coming out of Tahrir, including the brutal beating of already subdued protesters, are deeply shocking, as are the reports of unarmed protesters being shot in the head," Pillay said. "There should be a prompt, impartial and independent investigation, and accountability for those found responsible for the abuses that have taken place should be ensured."

Clashes resumed for a fifth day despite a promise by the head of the ruling military council on Tuesday to speed up a presidential election to the first half of next year, a concession swiftly rejected by tens of thousands of protesters in Tahrir Square. The military previously floated late next year or early 2013 as the likely date for the vote, the last step in the process of transferring power to a civilian government.

Video: Protesters throw stones, conflict grows in Cairo (on this page)

The clashes are the longest spate of uninterrupted violence since the 18-day uprising that toppled the former regime in February.

The standoff at Tahrir and in other major cities such as Alexandria and Assiut has deepened the country's economic and security crisis less than a week before the first parliamentary elections since the ouster of longtime authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak.

Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi tried to defuse tensions with his address late Tuesday, but he did not set a date for handing authority to a civilian government.

The Tahrir crowd, along with protesters in a string of other cities, want Tantawi to step down immediately in favor of an interim civilian administration to run the nation's affairs until a new parliament and president are elected.

The government offered more concessions on Wednesday, ordering the release of 312 protesters detained over the past days and instructing civilian prosecutors to take over a probe the military started into the death of 27 people, mostly Christians, in a protest on Oct. 9. The army is accused of involvement in the killings.

The military also denied that its troops around Tahrir Square used tear gas or fired at protesters, an assertion that runs against numerous witness accounts that say troops deployed outside the Interior Ministry were firing tear gas at protesters.

Street battles have been heaviest around the heavily fortified Interior Ministry, located on a side street that leads to the iconic square that was the epicenter of the uprising earlier this year. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to keep the protesters from storming the ministry, a sprawling complex that has for long been associated with the hated police and Mubarak's former regime.

An Associated Press reporter at the scene said a truce negotiated by Muslim clerics briefly held in the late afternoon, after both the protesters and the police pulled back from the front line street, scene of most of the fighting. State television, meanwhile, broadcast footage from the scene of the clashes showing army soldiers forming a human chain between the protesters and the police in a bid to stop the violence.

The truce was soon breached in a barrage of tear gas and rubber bullets from police and a shower of rocks by protesters.

One of the clerics, Mohammed Fawaz, said he and others were trying to regroup and try again to stop the fighting.

"We're scattered. we are trying to from a new human chain between protesters and police. We want the army to protect us," he said as a white cloud of tear gas hung low over the crowd and shots rang out.

Protester Islam Mohammed, 22, said a friend, Shehab Abdullah, died earlier in the day from what he said was a live bullet fired by police. "I will avenge his death. We all will," he said. "We are defending Tahrir square. If we sleep, police will attack us."

Soon after the truce was shattered, Egyptian-American filmmaker Jehan Nojaim was arrested, according to her friend and co-producer Karim Amer.

He said Nojaim called from her mobile telephone to say that she was detained by military police.

"They arrested her because they don't want anyone documenting what's happening," Amer said.

Elnadeem Center, an Egyptian rights group known for its careful research of victims of police violence, said late Tuesday that the number of protesters killed in clashes nationwide since Saturday is 38, three more than the Health Ministry's death toll, which went up to 35 on Wednesday. All but four of the deaths were in Cairo.

The clashes also have left at least 2,000 protesters wounded, mostly from gas inhalation or injuries caused by rubber bullets fired by the army and the police. The police deny using live ammunition.

Human Rights Watch on Tuesday cited morgue officials as saying at least 20 people have been killed by live ammunition.

Shady el-Nagar, a doctor in one of Tahrir's field hospitals, said three bodies arrived in the facility on Wednesday. All three had bullet wounds.

The turmoil broke out just days before the start of staggered parliamentary elections on Nov. 28. The votes will take place over months and conclude in March.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's strongest and best organized group, is not taking part in the ongoing protests in a move that is widely interpreted to be a reflection of its desire not to do anything that could derail the election, which it hopes win along with its allies.

Hundreds of Brotherhood supporters, however, have defied the leadership and joined the crowds in the square. Their participation is not likely to influence the Brotherhood's leadership or narrow the rift between the Islamist group and the secular organizations behind the uprising that toppled Mubarak and which are behind the latest spate of protests.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, meanwhile, was said by a spokesman to be following events in Egypt "with great concern."

"In the new Egypt, which wants to be free and democratic, repression and the use of force against peaceful demonstrators can have no place," spokesman Steffen Seibert said in Berlin. "The demonstrators' demands ... for a quick transition to a civilian government are understandable from the German government's point of view," he added.

___

Associated Press writers Maggie Michael in Cairo and Frank Jordans in Geneva contributed to this report.

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

Photos: Protests continue in Egypt

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  1. People take part in Friday prayers in Cairo's Tahrir Square before a mass rally on Nov. 25. Thousands of Egyptians continue to occupy the square ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for Nov. 28. (Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Egyptian protesters pray during a march in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Nov. 25. Egypt's ruling military council appointed Kamal Ganzouri on Friday as prime minister to form "a national salvation government" to replace the cabinet that resigned earlier in the week. (Esam Omran Al-Fetori / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Supporters of the Egyptian Armed Forces shout slogans and wave Egyptian national flags on a road near the defence ministry, headquarters of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, at Abbasiya square in Cairo Nov. 25. More than 5,000 pro-army Egyptians rallied as Egypt's military rulers named a veteran politician as prime minister in an attempt to quell mass protests that have killed 41 people.

    Story: Egypt military woos public to keep power (Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Volunteers clean up garbage and rocks on Nov. 24 after clashes in Alexandria, Egypt. Protesters and police observed a truce after violence that killed 39 people in five days. (Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A riot policeman fires a gun, allegedly at protesters, during clashes on a side street near Tahrir Square. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Wounded protesters are driven away to a makeshift hospital in Tahrir Square on Nov. 23. (Andre Pain / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A protester wears a gas mask, goggles and a pail to protect himself from tear gas canisters lobbed by riot police during clashes near Tahrir Square on Nov. 23. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. An Egyptian soldier tries to keep thousands of protesters away from riot policemen during a demonstration in Tahrir Square during the fourth day of clashes with security forces on Nov. 22. Demonstrators are demanding an end to military rule, heightening tension after days of deadly clashes that threaten to derail next week's legislative polls. (Khaled Desouki / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Egypt's Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, longtime defence minister who is now the country's de facto ruler, addresses the nation in a televised speech in Cairo on Nov. 22. The head of Egypt's ruling military council accepted the cabinet's resignation and said the military was ready to hold a referendum for immediate transfer of power. (Egyptian state TV / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A protester displays empty tear gas canisters as others chant slogans during clashes with riot police in Cairo on Nov. 22. (Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Protesters carry a wounded comrade to a nearby hospital on a motorcycle during a demonstration by tens of thousands of Egyptians in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Nov. 22. (Khaled Desouki / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Protesters pack Cairo's Tahrir Square on Nov. 22 as clashes between police and protesters demanding democratic change entered a fourth day. (Khaled Desouki / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Protesters take shelter behind a wall during clashes with riot police on a side street near Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, on Tuesday, Nov. 22. Egyptians frustrated with military rule battled police in the streets as the generals scrambled to cope with the cabinet's proffered resignation after bloodshed that has jolted plans for the country's first free election in decades. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Riot police stand behind flames from molotov cocktails during clashes with protesters on a side street near Tahrir Square on Nov. 22. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. An ambulance makes its way through thousands of protesters as they attend a funeral of a victim of earlier clashes in Tahrir Square on Nov. 22. (Khaled Desouki / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A riot police officer fires tear gas during clashes with protesters near Tahrir Square on Nov. 22. (Khalil Hamra / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. A protester throws a tear gas canister, which was earlier thrown by riot police during clashes along a road which leads to the Interior Ministry, near Tahrir Square on Nov. 22. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Protesters carry a wounded man during clashes with riot police near Tahrir Square on Nov. 22. (Khalil Hamra / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. People carry the body of a protester who was killed in clashes with the riot police during his funeral in Tahrir Square on Nov. 22. (Khalil Hamra / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Protesters clash with riot police in Alexandria on Nov. 21. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Protesters stand in line to protect the field hospital in Tahrir Square, Cairo, on Nov. 21. (Mohamed Hossam / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Protesters run from tear gas fired by riot police during clashes in Tahrir Square on Nov. 21. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. An injured protester is helped away during clashes with security forces in Tahrir Square on Nov. 21. (Khaled Desouki / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Protesters throw stones at riot police firing tear gas and rubber bullets near Tahrir Square on Nov 21. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. A protester winces after being exposed to tear gas during clashes near Tahrir Square in Cairo on Nov. 21. (Asmaa Waguih / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. A riot policeman aims a shotgun with rubber bullets at protesters, next to a plainclothes policeman during clashes in Cairo on Nov. 21. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Protesters carry a man injured during clashes with riot police in Cairo on Nov. 21. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. A protester stands on top of a burned car in a Cairo street on Nov. 21. (Khalil Hamra / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. An Egyptian protester hurls a tear gas canister back at security forces as others run for cover on the third day of clashes at Tahrir Square in Cairo on Nov. 21. (Mohammed Hossam / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Two Egyptian protesters help a man overcome with tear gas during clashes in Tahrir square, in Cairo, Egypt, on Nov. 21. (Mohammed Abu Zaid / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. An Egyptian protester sprays water on the eyes of a fellow demonstrator after tear gas was fired by security forces in Tahrir Square on Nov. 21. (Mohammed Hossam / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Canadian volunteer nurse, Merikel, right, helps an Egyptian medical team treat an injured protester at a field hospital at Tahrir Square in Cairo on Nov. 21. (Amr Nabil / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. A protester climbs a burned building to rescue residents trapped by fire during clashes with police in Cairo on Nov. 21. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. An Egyptian protester shouts during clashes with security forces at Tahrir Square in Cairo on Nov. 21. (Mohammed Hossam / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Firemen try to put out a fire started by protesters during clashes with police in front of the Security Administrative building in Alexandria, Egypt, on Sunday, Nov. 20. (Stringer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. A protester overcome by tear gas kneels in the middle of the street during clashes with Egyptian riot police near the interior ministry downtown Cairo, Egypt, on Nov. 20. (Tara Todras-whitehill / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Egyptians protesters are pushed away by security forces during clashes in Cairo on Nov. 20. (Khaled Elfiqi / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Protesters run from riot police spraying tear gas, during clashes near Tahrir Square in Cairo on Nov. 20. (Asmaa Waguih / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. A protester receives medical treatment at a field hospital after being wounded in clashes with Egyptian riot police in Cairo on Nov. 20. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Egyptian protesters are confronted by riot police firing rubber bullets and tear gas in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Nov. 19. (Khaled Desouki / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Egyptian riot police clash with protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo on Nov. 19, as Egyptian riot police dismantled a small tent city set up to commemorate revolutionary martyrs in Cairo's Tahrir Square. (Khalil Hamra / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Egyptian youths attack a police vehicle in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, Nov. 19. (Ahmed Khaled / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. Protesters chant slogans in Tahrir Square, the focal point of the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak, in Cairo on Nov. 18. (Khalil Hamra / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. Egyptian protesters take over Tahrir Square in Cairo on Nov. 18. (Khaled Elfiqi / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
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