Egyptian protests, violence overshadow elections

By Hadeel Al-shalchi

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Nov. 26 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

CAIRO — Fresh clashes between security forces and Egyptian protesters demanding the military step down broke out Saturday in front of the Cabinet building, leaving one man dead, as violence threatened to overshadow next week's parliamentary elections.

Meanwhile, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of the ruling military council that took power after Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February, met separately with opposition leader and Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei and presidential hopeful Amr Moussa, who was the former head of the Arab League. Egyptian state TV reported the meetings but gave no details.

The new prime minister, whose appointment by the military on Friday touched off a wave of anger among protesters accusing the army of trying to perpetuate the old regime, also held a series of meetings trying to sway youth groups to his side.

State TV said Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri, who is unpopular in part because he served under Mubarak, offered Cabinet positions and is pondering the formation of an advisory council to be composed of leading democracy advocates and presidential hopefuls.

The suggestion however failed to disperse the protesters, with nearly 10,000 packing into Cairo's central Tahrir Square as organizers called for another mass rally on Sunday.

Twenty-four protest groups, including two political parties, have announced they are creating their own "national salvation" government to be headed by ElBaradei with deputies from across the political spectrum to which they demanded the military hand over power.

ElBaradei said in a statement that he would be willing to form a such a government to manage the country's transition, and that if he were officially asked to put a government together, he would give up the idea of running for president in order to focus on the current phase of transition.

Outside the Cabinet building, hundreds of protesters set up camp, spending the night in blankets and tents to prevent the 78-year-old el-Ganzouri from entering to take up his new post. Early Saturday, they clashed with security forces who allegedly tried to disperse them.

An Associated Press cameraman saw three police troop carriers and an armored vehicle firing tear gas as they were being chased from the site by rock-throwing protesters.

The man who was killed was run over by one of the vehicles, but there were conflicting accounts about the circumstances surrounding the death.

The Interior Ministry expressed regret for the death of the protester, identified as Ahmed Serour, and said it was an accident. Police didn't intend to storm the sit-in but were merely heading to the Interior Ministry headquarters, located behind the Cabinet building, when they came under attack by angry protesters throwing firebombs, it said in a statement. The ministry claimed security forces were injured and the driver of one of the vehicles panicked and ran over the protester.

One of the demonstrators, Mohammed Zaghloul, 21, said he saw six security vehicles heading to their site.

"It became very tense, rock throwing started and the police cars were driving like crazy," he said. "Police threw one tear gas canister and all of a sudden we saw our people carrying the body of a man who was bleeding really badly."

Officials say more than 40 people have been killed across the country since Nov. 19, when the unrest began after a small sit-in by protesters injured during the 18-day uprising that ousted Mubarak was violently broken up by security forces. That sparked days of clashes, which ended with a truce on Thursday. It wasn't clear whether the melee on Saturday was an isolated incident or part of fresh violence by security forces trying to clear the way for the new prime minister, and protesters frustrated by what they believe are the military's efforts to perpetuate the old regime.

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