An Associated Press reporter at the scene said a truce negotiated by Muslim clerics appeared to be holding in the late afternoon, with both the protesters and the police pulling 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.
A short while earlier, tension was high in the area on the side streets leading to the Interior Ministry, which is responsible for the police, with many young protesters vomiting and coughing incessantly from the tear gas fired by the police. Others wounded by rubber bullets were hurriedly ferried by motorcycle to field hospitals.
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.
“We don’t know if these were caused by live ammunition or pellets because pellets can be deadly when fired from a short distance,” he said.
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.
Sixty years after it was banned, the Brotherhood found itself empowered in the wake of the Feb. 11 ouster of Mubarak. It moved swiftly after the overthrow of Mubarak to form its own party, Freedom and Justice, to contest the parliamentary election.
Notorious for its political opportunism, the Brotherhood and its allies are hoping to win enough seats in the next legislature to push through a new constitution with an Islamic slant and bring this mainly Muslim nation of some 85 million people closer to being an Islamic state.
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.
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