Egyptian protesters ignore army order

 

More than 1,000 protesters ignored an army order to leave Cairo's main square today, extending their calls for a quick move to civilian rule and a deeper purge of corrupt officials into a third day.

Barbed wire blocked roads into Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the protests that toppled President Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11 and a major thoroughfare in the traffic-choked capital.

Protesters cried "revolution, revolution" and brandished an effigy of Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who heads the military council now ruling Egypt and is also defence minister, as he was under Mubarak for many years.

"What is wanted is a civilian council," read one slogan. "The people demand that the field marshal be toppled," the protesters cried.

A dozen armoured personnel carriers full of troops waited near the square but out of sight.

Egypt's army rulers have enjoyed broad support since taking control on February 11th, but complaints against them are growing - although they have promised free, fair elections for a new parliament in September.

Hundreds of thousands packed into Tahrir Square on Friday in one of the biggest demonstrations since Mubarak was ousted.

A hard core of protesters say the army is colluding with remnants of Mubarak's network and thwarting popular demands for more of his lieutenants to face trial.

Medical sources said 13 men were wounded by gunfire and two had died late on Friday. Soldiers and police used tasers and batons to try to drive out the protesters.

The army backed out of Tahrir Square after failing to remove all of them. It later announced that the square would be cleared last night.

"But nothing happened," said Ahmed el-Moqdami (25) who said he was in a group representing the youth of Upper Egypt. "We will continue the sit-in until our demands are met," he said. "First of all, the field marshal must go. Mubarak must be put on trial and a civilian council must be formed for the transition period."

The army said violence at the protest was caused by elements "that backed the counter-revolution" - an apparent reference to loyalists of Mr Mubarak who ruled autocratically for 30 years.

It said they were trying to "sow discord between the army and the people" and that soldiers did not use live ammunition when trying to quell the unrest.

Reuters