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Egypt clashes kill 10, undermine Army narrative of democratic transition

This weekend's renewed violence in Egypt, including the documented use of live ammunition against unarmed protesters, has further eroded confidence in the ruling military council.

Egyptian security members in plain clothes hurl rocks and use water cannons on protesters from a rooftop during clashes with army soldiers near Tahrir Square in Cairo, Sunday. Egypt's military sought to isolate pro-democracy activists protesting against their rule, depicting them as conspirators and vandals, as troops and protesters clashed for a third straight day, pelting each other with stones near parliament in the heart of the capital.

Nasser Nasser/AP

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In Cairo today, security forces clashed with Egyptian protesters for the third straight day after a brutal Army crackdown on demonstrators yesterday, marking an escalation of violence by Egypt’s military rulers.  

The fighting came in the middle of Egypt’s staggered parliamentary elections, which have progressed relatively smoothly despite street clashes that raged the week before the vote began.

But this weekend's renewed violence, including the documented use of live ammunition against unarmed protesters, undermines the Army's narrative that Egypt's democratic transition is on track.

The fighting also shows a disturbing pattern of systematic violence which, coupled with a lack of accountability, has further eroded confidence in the ruling military council to provide stability and leadership at a sensitive time of transition.

'A new red line'

Clashes that started early Friday escalated when the Egyptian Army launched a brutal attack on demonstrators Saturday. Troops swept through the central Cairo street where the protesters had congregated and into nearby Tahrir Square, beating and arresting protesters and onlookers alike.

Photos and video showed soldiers stripping a woman of her shirt and dragging her across the pavement while beating and kicking her. Videos and photos also show soldiers firing handguns at protesters as the soldiers attacked. Ten people were killed in the clashes, at least seven from gunshot wounds.

Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, says the high number of deaths by live ammunition at the hands of the Army, which has been seen as a disciplined organization, is a new and startling development.

“We've seen this kind of shootings by police and Central Security Forces in the past, but most previous violations by military personnel were through excessive violence in the form of beatings or even in Maspero ... running over protesters with armored vehicles," he says, referring to the violent crackdown on mainly Coptic Christian protesters in October. "But this is the first time we have this clear indication that members of the armed forces used live ammunition to gun down protesters.”


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