Gangs Strike Out at Egyptian Protesters at Tahrir Square Rally

Anshel Pfeffer reports from Cairo, as clashes break out in Cairo’s Tahrir square Monday night in the wake of Egypt’s historic election’s second day; 79 people injured.

Reports began emerging from Tahrir Square of organized groups of thugs wielding clubs that were attacking protesters. Gunmen fired rounds at civilians near the October 6 Bridge and Molotov Cocktails were hurled at the square itself. According to the reports, 79 people were injured. In addition the reports claim a political activist, known as Nadim-X, was kidnapped by unknown culprits in front of a crowd of protesters and onlookers.

Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei said Monday night that the thugs were sent to attack the crowd. “A government that cannot protect its citizens is a government that failed its people.”

Egypt - AP - 30.11.2011

Monday saw the close of two days of voting, characterized by high turnout rates and relative quiet. For many of the voters this was their first time participating in democratic elections. In the morning the stream of voters seemed to predict a low turnout, but as the day progressed the voters arrived in large numbers.

Nadin Halled, a volunteer for one of the candidates near a voting booth in Cairo’s Zamalek Quarter told Haaretz: “50% of the early voters had come the day before. I guess those who have showed up think the army will determine the elections results anyway or just prefer to enjoy their day off.” A few hours later it was clear that Monday, too, would see millions of Egyptians flowing to voting stations, in what many described as “their first chance to determine their future.”

In some voting stations men and woman were segregated in separate lines. The elections are an important challenge to the rights of Egyptian women, as many are concerned the Muslim Brotherhood and other religious political parties may gain control of the Egyptian parliament’s lower house - a result that would squash these women's hope for greater liberty.

Tahrir square had been calm for several days.

Last week, roads around Tahrir were the scene of some of the worst violence since Mubarak was toppled: 42 people killed in Cairo and elsewhere in violence triggered by protests against the generals.

The protesters say the generals are trying to manipulate their position to preserve power and privilege. The generals say they will hand power to an elected president by mid-2012.

Mohammed Sayid, one of the protest organisers, told Egyptian state television the protesters had organized volunteer security groups "to protect people and families in the square" from the youths.

People parked cars on one of the main bridges spanning the Nile to watch as armed youths chased others in violent scenes beneath them.

It was unclear who threw the petrol bombs, who fired the shots and what motivated them, but state television said the clashes had initially involved street vendors.

In an earlier sign of tensions in the square, scuffles flared among dozens of street vendors who have been selling goods to the protesters camping there, and stalls were damaged.

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