x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Egyptian protesters firebomb Cairo's Al Jazeera office

Egyptian protesters firebomb an Al Jazeera office and attack a police chief who tried to negotiate an end to three days of violent protests.

Al Jazeera’s live studios in its Cairo offices were gutted in the attack.
Al Jazeera’s live studios in its Cairo offices were gutted in the attack.

CAIRO // Egyptian protesters firebombed one of the offices of Al Jazeera yesterday and attacked a police chief who tried to negotiate an end to three days of violent protests in central Cairo.

The protesters hit the broadcaster's studio overlooking Tahrir Square with Molotov cocktails, engulfing it in flames. In a televised interview from inside the gutted office, reporter Ahmed El Dassouki said about 300 protesters approached the building before noon, shouting obscenities.

He said they set the place on fire, stormed the building, and looted the studio.

"They accuse our network of being biased and not objective," he said. Many protesters had accused the channel of supporting the country's most powerful political force, the Muslim Brotherhood.

After the attack, a crowd beat up Cairo Police Chief Osama El Saghir, who had travelled to Tahrir Square to defuse the situation, a security official said. Protesters drove Mr El Saghir from the square with punches and kicks, the official added.

Fire crews rushed to put out the office blaze as dozens of onlookers watched smoke and flames shoot from the balcony.

The development came a day after a youth activist, Gaber Salah, was shot in the neck.

Scores of protesters have been wounded with birdshot and tear gas fired by police, and Egypt's Interior Ministry says 118 "rioters" have been arrested since Monday.

The conflict began as peaceful demonstrations demanding retribution for protesters slain by police a year ago, and an expression of anger at the Muslim Brotherhood and president Mohammed Morsi. Protesters have hung a huge banner that read: Muslim Brotherhood not allowed.

Monday was the first anniversary of the deadly confrontation between police and demonstrators known as "Mohammed Mahmoud," named after the street on which the clashes broke out when security forces moved to break up a sit-in by protesters injured during last year's uprising. It set off days of sustained violence that left 42 dead and hundreds wounded as security forces fired tear gas, shotgun rounds and rubber bullets.

That was before Mr Morsi was president, while the country was run by a transitional military government following the toppling of longtime president Hosni Mubarak. But this week's protesters, mostly disgruntled youth, feel he has done little to address their demand that security officers be held accountable for the killings of protesters.