CAIRO (Reuters) – Scores of people were injured in Cairo yesterday when thousands of demonstrators fought opponents with stones on their march to the Defence Ministry to urge their military rulers to speed up reforms, witnesses said.
They said most of the injuries occurred when civilians believed to be thugs hurled barrages of stones and firebombs at protesters, who fought back with stones torn up from pavements.
Military police, armed with Tasers and batons, fired in the air to stop the demonstrators from approaching the Defence Ministry. A Reuters witness said tear gas fumes were wafting outside the area as military helicopters circled overhead.
The Health Ministry told state television at least 143 people were hurt in the violence.
The clashes broke out after the head of the ruling military council, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, promised in a televised speech to push ahead with elections to transform the Arab world’s most populous nation into a democracy. Young demonstrators are angered by clashes between military police and protesters in a number of cities on Friday. The army denied using force against them.
Thousands of protesters marched from Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the Jan. 25 protests that ousted Hosni Mubarak, towards the Defence Ministry chanting “peaceful, peaceful”.
“The people want to bring down the field marshal,” they chanted as they headed for the ministry, snarling traffic.
Tantawi, whose military council took over after Mubarak’s overthrow, was seen leaving the area before protesters arrived.
It was the 15th day of demonstrations, in Tahrir Square and other squares across the country, to back demands for more freedom for the civilian government, led by Essam Sharaf, an end to military trials and a timetable the completion of reforms.