x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Protesters set vehicles on fire in Cairo

Protests continued in Cairo yesterday against Egypt' military ruler. During a mass rally after the main weekly Muslim prayers on Friday, protesters were joined by at least seven dissident officers who called for the ¿purification¿ of the army.

CAIRO // Protesters demanding the departure of Egypt's interim military rulers set a bus and a truck alight in Cairo's Tahrir square yesterday a day after tens of thousands rallied.

Earlier, Egyptian forces had fired into the air to disperse several hundred protesters who had camped out in the square overnight after the biggest demonstration in more than a month, witnesses said.

About 200 demonstrators, many wielding clubs, called for Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi to relinquish power, as soldiers set up barbed wire barricades in the square, which was littered with stones and the signs of bloodstains on the ground.

Military police moved in after tens of thousands, who rallied on Friday to demand the prosecution of ousted president hosni mubarak and other leading figures from his regime, were joined by dissident army officers.

The military, which has ruled the Arab world's most populous nation since mubarak quit in February in the face of mass protests, said that "elements from the interior ministry" backed by civilians had cleared the "outlaws" from the square, in a statement carried by the official Mena news agency.

But the mood yesterday morning was decidedly anti-military.

"I've come to Tahrir Square because we are witnessing a counter-revolution," student Malik Asam said.

Another student, Anas Mohamed, said: "I had expected to see the other face of the military, but if they carry on as they are, they will see the other face of the people."

During the mass rally after the main weekly Muslim prayers on Friday, protesters were joined by at least seven dissident officers who called for the "purification" of the army.

"Elements from the interior ministry along with some noble citizens confronted the riotous actions and enforced the curfew without any losses," the armed forces statement carried by Mena said.

A separate statement posted on the military's Facebook page blamed "remnants" of the formerly ruling National Democratic Party for the demonstration and said it had ordered the arrest of four party members it accused of "thuggery" during the sit-in.

Friday's rally, dubbed the "day of trial and cleansing", was a colourful affair as the protesters, waving flags and holding banners, vowed to press the ruling military council to deliver on promises of reform and justice.

Seven army officers defied a warning from the ruling military council when they joined the protesters' call for former regime elements to face trial.

"Our demands are your demands. We want a civilian government. We want to try corrupt people," one officer said to loud cheers.

The supreme council of the armed forces that took power after Mr Mubarak was ousted on February 11, warned that anyone protesting in military uniform on Friday would face trial in a military court.

Tahrir square in the heart of Cairo was the focal point of 18 straight days of mass protests that brought down Mr Mubarak's regime after three decades in power, handing the reins to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, headed by Field Marshal Tantawi who served as Mr Mubarak's defence minister for two decades.