- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 20, 2011

CAIRO — Egyptian soldiers and police set fire to protest tents in the middle of Cairo’s Tahrir Square and fired tear gas and rubber bullets in a major assault Sunday to drive out thousands demanding that the military rulers quickly transfer power to a civilian government. At least 11 protesters were killed.

It was the second day of clashes marking a sharp escalation of tensions on Egypt’s streets a week before the first elections since the ouster of longtime authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak in February. The military took over the country, promising a swift transition to civilian rule. But the pro-democracy demonstrators who led the uprising have grown increasingly angry with the ruling generals, and they suspect the military is trying to cling to power.

The army-backed cabinet said in a statement that elections set to begin Nov. 28 will take place on time and thanked the police for their “restraint,” language that is likely to enrage the protesters even more.

“We’re not going anywhere,” protester Mohammed Radwan said after security forces tried unsuccessfully to push the demonstrators out of Tahrir, the epicenter of the uprising.

“The mood is good now and people are chanting again,” he added after many of the demonstrators returned.

A medical official at Cairo’s main morgue said at least 11 protesters were killed Sunday. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

Doctors at two field hospitals in the square said that among the dead was one man killed by a blow to his head and another by gunshots.

The military, which took over from Mr. Mubarak, has repeatedly pledged to hand power to an elected civilian government, but has yet to set a specific date.

According to one timetable floated by the army, the handover will occur after presidential elections late next year or early in 2013. The protesters say they want a handover immediately after the end of the staggered parliamentary elections, which begin Nov. 28 and end in March.

The clashes began Saturday when police tried to clear a sit-in in Tahrir by people who were wounded during the 18-day uprising in the winter and have not received medical care. Some others at the sit-in were protesting the slow pace of justice for those killed or hurt in the revolt. Clashes broke out in Cairo and other major cities. By the end of the day, two protesters were dead.

The violence resumed Sunday, when police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to try to clear about 5,000 protesters still in Tahrir. Many chanted “freedom, freedom” as they pelted police with rocks. A white cloud of tear gas hung in the air.

“We have a single demand: The marshal must step down and be replaced by a civilian council,” said protester Ahmed Hani, referring to Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, head of the ruling military council and Mubarak’s longtime defense minister.

“The violence yesterday showed us that Mubarak is still in power,” said Mr. Hani, who was wounded on the forehead by a rubber bullet.

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