In Egypt, Army Starts To Get Tougher


A rally that brought over 100,000 demonstrators to Egypt’s Tahrir Square was dispersed this morning by Egyptian soldiers firing in the air and using batons and tasers against demonstrators who were demanding that the Hosni Mubarak cabinet be purged by the country’s new military leaders.

Egyptians had gathered in Tahrir Square to celebrate the two week mark since Mubarak’s removal and to remind the military rulers now in charge of its commitments to the people at the time of Mubarak’s ouster.

One of the commitments was to install a team of technocrats to replace the Mubarak-appointed cabinet. Activists are using the demonstrations to guard against “counter-revolution” of the people’s power.

But after midnight, demonstrators said the military fired in the air, shut off the light from lamp posts, and moved in on protesters to force them to leave the square, in an unusual use of military force against protesters since Mubarak’s fall.

“Military police used batons and tasers to hit the protesters,” Ahmed Bahgat, one of the protesters, told Reuters by telephone. “The military is once again using force. They were using tasers and sticks to beat us without any control. I thought things would change. I wanted to give the government a chance but there is no hope with this regime,” one witness said.

The army officers donned black masks to cover their faces before moving in on the demonstrators, according to another witness.

It was not clear if any demonstrators were injured by the military’s show of force or merely frightened, although witnesses reported seeing demonstrators knocked to the ground.

Protesters say they want the resignation of the government of Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, the release of political prisoners and the issuance of a general amnesty.

The Muslim Brotherhood and other groups are particularly concerned about the key portfolios of defense, interior, justice and foreign affairs, and want a clean break from Mubarak’s old guard.

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