Cairo Soldiers beat hundreds of protesters with clubs and fired heavy volleys of gunfire into the air in a pre-dawn attack that broke up a demonstration in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, a sign of the increasing tensions between Egypt’s ruling military and the country’s protest movement.
A force of around 300 soldiers swept into the square around 3 a.m. today and waded into a tent camp in the center where protesters had formed a human cordon to protect several army officers who joined their demonstration, witnesses said.
The troops dragged an unknown number of protesters away, throwing them into police trucks.
“I saw women being slapped in the face, women being kicked,” cried one female protester, who was among around 200 who fled to take refuge in a nearby mosque. Troops surrounded the mosque and heavy gunfire was heard for hours. Protesters in the mosque reported large numbers of injured, including several wounded by gunfire.
The assault came hours after tens of thousands massed in Tahrir Square on Friday in one of the biggest protests in weeks, demanding that the military prosecute ousted president Hosni Mubarak and his family for alleged corruption.
The rally was a show of the increasing impatience and mistrust that many Egyptians feel toward the military, which was handed power when Mubarak was forced out of office on Feb. 11. Some protesters accuse the military leadership of protecting Mubarak — a former military man himself — and more broadly, many are unclear on the army’s intentions in the country’s transition.