05/02/2012, 00.00
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Clashes between demonstrators, soldiers and hooligans leave 11 dead, 50 wounded

Unknown people attacked this morning a sit-in involving Salafists and members of pro-democracy movements in front of Egypt's Defence Ministry in Cairo. When the military moved in to quell the unrest, deploying armoured vehicles and firing tear gas, mayhem followed. Egypt's 23 May presidential is now in jeopardy.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - At least 11 people were killed in clashes that broke out between police and demonstrations early this morning outside the Egyptian Defence Ministry. Organised by Salafists protesting the exclusion of their leader Hazem Abu Ismail from the upcoming presidential election, the demonstration turned into a peaceful rally calling for the resignation of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. Members of secular-oriented parties also joined the protest, including activists from the 6 April youth movement, one of the main groups behind last year's popular revolt.

According to local sources, a group of unidentified men attacked the camp of protesters with guns and rods, forcing soldiers to intervene. However, instead of going after the hooligans, the soldiers on foot and in armoured vehicles attacked the demonstrators.

"Eight armoured personnel carriers from the military central zone entered the Abassiya area to disperse the fighting between protesters, and not to disperse the peaceful demonstrators," an army statement said. "However, protesters attacked the armed forces. The armed forces have orders to hold their ground."

These are same words used to justify the massacre of Copts in front of the Maspero building on 9 October 2011 that claimed 27 lives. Only a few days ago, an Egyptian court dropped the case into the incident for lack of evidence.

Experts and political leaders note that Egypt is sliding back into a pattern of repression and violence, which could jeopardise the 23 May presidential election.

For their part, Mohammed Mursi, the Freedom and Justice Party (Muslim Brotherhood) candidate, and independent (Islamist) Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh suspended their campaign today to protest against the military's violence.

Mursi announced that he would bring three million of people into the streets if the military refuse to give up power to civilian leaders.

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