CAIRO — Groups of men armed with knives and sticks attacked thousands of protesters trying to march to the headquarters of Egypt’s military rulers Saturday, setting off fierce street clashes and leaving dozens injured, most lightly. Security fired tear gas to disperse the crowd. The clashes come as tensions have been rising between the military council that took control of the country after a popular uprising ousted ex-President Hosni Mubarak and activists who want them to move faster in bringing former regime officials to justice and setting a date for the transition to civilian rule.
The military has increasingly appeared impatient with the pressure, accusing activists of treason, warning protesters against “harming national interests” and calling on “honourable” Egyptians to confront actions that disrupt a return to normal life, something many interpreted as a call on Egyptians to turn against each other. An estimated 10,000 people set out from downtown Cairo’s Tahrir Square but were stopped from reaching the military headquarters in the eastern Abbasiyah neighbourhood by a line of army barricades. Along the way, they chanted slogans against the military council’s delay in implementing their demands.
Many protesters have grown distrustful of the military rulers who assumed control of the country on Feb. 11, and continued demonstrations have forced a change to the interim government and a change in the leadership of the police force. A few hundred have been camped out in Tahrir Square since July 8 to pressure the military to bring those accused of killing nearly 900 protesters during the 18-day uprising to trial. So far, only one low-ranking police officer has been charged in absentia for killing protesters.