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zaterdag, mei 05, 2012

Clashes break out during Cairo rallies

  • Hundreds of protesters are gathering in Cairo's Tahrir Square
  • Another rally is planned for the Abaseya area, near the defense ministry
  • Political parties have urged their supporters to voice outrage over deadly clashes on Wednesday
  • Many protesters are concerned by the slow transition of power from Egypt's military to civilian rule

Cairo, Egypt (CNN) -- Mass demonstrations are expected in Cairo Friday after several parties urged supporters to voice their outrage at this week's deadly clashes and demand the resignation of Egypt's interim military government.

The Muslim Brotherhood's political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, is among those joining the protest in Tahrir Square, the heart of Egypt's protest movement, under the banner of "stopping the bloodshed."

At least 11 people were killed and scores injured in the clashes in Cairo's Abaseya area Wednesday, where a sit-in protest has been going on outside Egypt's defense ministry for the past week.

The protests come against a backdrop of frustration over the pace of reform since Hosni Mubarak was ousted as president last year and amid concern that Egypt's military leadership is delaying the transition to civilian rule.

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Several hundred protesters have already gathered in Tahrir Square, with more expected to join the protest after Friday prayers.

At least three stages have been set up in the square, where a mostly Islamist crowd plans to demonstrate, according to Egypt's state-run Nile TV.

Many are supporters of Islamist candidate Hazem Abu Ismael, who is among a number of candidates disqualified from standing in the May 23 presidential election.

Meanwhile, a mostly liberal crowd, including supporters of the April 6 movement, is expected to go to Abaseya Square. Marches will move from mosques toward the defense ministry, where the sit-in protest began last Friday.

The April 6 movement wants accountability from the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces over the deaths of protesters in the Abaseya clashes.

The Ministry of Health has dispatched 70 ambulances to the Abaseya protests, dubbed the "Final Friday" march and the Arab Doctor's Association has set up two makeshift clinics.

The Al Nour Salafi party has boycotted the Abaseya protest.

Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said on its Facebook page Thursday that the clashes in Abaseya were aimed at delaying the presidential elections and stalling the formation of a constituent assembly.

The Supreme Council also said certain "unnamed" groups have used verses from the Quran calling for jihad, or holy war, to try to draw the military into an armed conflict.

The military had tried to convince the protesters to move from their position near the Ministry of Defense to Tahrir Square, the heart of Egypt's protest movement, but they refused, the Facebook statement said.

Friday's protests come amid growing controversy over the approaching presidential elections.

The Muslim Brotherhood's preferred candidate Khairat El Shater, who was disqualified from running last month, was referred to the country's general prosecutor Friday for insulting the election commission.

Abu Ismael was also referred to the general prosecutor for alleged forgery. He was disqualified from standing because of evidence that his late mother had U.S. citizenship, an assertion he has denied.

It comes a day after three other presidential candidates were referred for alleged violations of election campaign law.

The three candidates, leading independent Abdel Monein Aboul Fettouh, Mohamed Mursi, of the Islamist Freedom and Justice Party, and Amr Moussa, were accused of breaking the law by holding meetings on college campuses.

"These infringements by the presidential candidates will be taken very seriously and they will be questioned as soon as possible. They could be fined," Adel Saeed, the official spokesman for the general prosecutor, told CNN Thursday.

The election commission has disqualified some 10 of the 23 presidential contenders, its chief has said. The disqualifications have prompted widespread anger.

International powers have urged all sides to exercise restraint following the clashes Wednesday.

Assailants targeted the protesters in Cairo early Wednesday, medical sources said. At least 150 people were injured, Dr. Ahmed Thabet, a physician working in a field hospital near where the clashes took place, said Thursday.

It was unclear who the attackers were, but they were not wearing uniforms, witnesses said.

The Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, issued a statement Thursday blaming the Supreme Council for the death and injuries in the Abaseya clashes, saying it wanted to delay the transition of power.

A government official earlier denied reports that the military was involved in Wednesday's violence.

"There were no riot police or military that tried to evict the sit-in by force," said Gen. Marwan Mustapha, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry.

"We are not sure of the identities of the thugs that attacked the peaceful protesters. The military only protects the vicinity of the ministry and blocked some roads leading to it."

Clashes have erupted in Egypt since an uprising led to the toppling of Mubarak in February of last year, with protesters demanding the military leaders who took over hand over power to a civilian administration.

Journalist Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and CNN's Amir Ahmed contributed to this report.


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