Egypt was plunged into fresh turmoil after at least 11 people were killed when a mob attacked an Islamist protest camp erected in Cairo to demand an end to army rule. The dawn raid sparked fierce clashes between the protesters and their unidentified assailants, with both sides fighting each other with sticks, stones and petrol bombs.
The incident was the latest in a series of violent episodes in the build up to presidential elections later this month that are meant to represent the culmination of Egypt’s transition to civilian rule more than a year after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, the former president.The atmosphere in the country has become unsteady since Egypt’s electoral commission disqualified three prominent candidates in the presidential race. Violence took place near the defence ministry in the capital’s Abbasiya district where protesters had camped out to denounce the exclusion of Hazem Abu Ismail, the leading ultraconservative religious candidate who was disqualified just because his mother held an American passport.
The protesters, which are mostly of Salafist Muslims, said they had been demonstrating peacefully when they were attacked by a mob who opened fire with live ammunition and hurled petrol bombs at them from a nearby bridge.
Two of Egypt’s presidential candidates, including the Muslim Brotherhood, said their candidates would suspend their election campaigns for two days to mourn the dead. Egypt’s health ministry confirmed the deaths of five people, although protesters said that at least eight of their number had died, with as many as 200 others injured. They accused the perpetrators of the attack of being plain clothes soldiers, saying they had found army ration packs among the possessions of some members of the mob that they had managed to overpower.
Protesters who have gathered outside the defence ministry also come under attack, often by people claiming to be local residents tired of demonstrations.