Showing posts with label egyptian latest news. Show all posts
Showing posts with label egyptian latest news. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Woman beaten by Egyptian troops in Tahrir Square

A Woman is being beaten by Egyptian troops
Washington has described the treatment of female protesters in Egypt as "shocking" and a "disgrace" after footage emerged of troops ripping off a woman's clothing and beating her.

Clashes between security forces and demonstrators demanding an immediate end to military rule, are continuing in the capital Cairo, overshadowing parliamentary elections which are taking place.

At least thirteen people have been killed since Friday.

News by BBC

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Thursday, December 01, 2011

Islamists seen as winners in Egypt election

Vote Counting in Egypt
(Reuters) - Egypt's ruling military painted a dire picture of the economy on Thursday as election officials delayed releasing results of a landmark parliamentary poll that Islamist parties looked set to win, saying votes were still being counted.

They said first-round results would be declared on Friday, a day when youthful protesters demanding an immediate end to army rule have called a rally in Cairo's Tahrir Square to remember the 42 people killed in clashes with riot police last month.

Egyptians voting freely for the first time since army officers ousted the king in 1952 seem willing to give Islamists a chance. "We tried everyone, why not try Sharia (Islamic law) once?" asked Ramadan Abdel Fattah, 48, a bearded civil servant.

Islamist success at the polls in Egypt, the most populous Arab nation, would reinforce a trend in North Africa, where moderate Islamists now lead governments in Morocco and post-uprising Tunisia after election wins in the last two months.

Parliament, whose exact makeup will be clear only after Egypt's staggered voting process ends in January, may challenge the power of the generals who took over in February after a popular uprising toppled Hosni Mubarak, an ex-air force chief.

The army council, under growing pressure to make way for civilian rule, has said it will keep powers to pick or fire a cabinet. But the head of the Muslim Brotherhood's party said this week the majority in parliament should form a government.

The poll results had been expected on Thursday, but some constituencies had not completed their counts.

In an alarming revelation, an army official said foreign reserves would plunge to $15 billion by the end of January, down from the $22 billion reported by the central bank in October.

Mahmoud Nasr, financial assistant to army chief Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, told a news briefing that a widening budget deficit might force a review of costly subsidies, especially on petrol, to save money.

The economic crunch has forced the Egyptian pound to its lowest level in nearly seven years after tourism and foreign investment collapsed in the turmoil since Mubarak's overthrow.

The world is closely watching the election, keen for stability in Egypt, which has a peace treaty with Israel, owns the Suez Canal linking Europe and Asia, and which in Mubarak's time was an ally in countering Islamist militants in the region.

Washington and its European allies have urged the generals to step aside swiftly and make way for civilian rule.


Western powers are coming to accept that the advent of democracy in the Arab world may bring Islamists to power, but they also worry that Islamist rule in Egypt might erode social freedoms and threaten Cairo's 1979 peace treaty with Israel.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's oldest Islamist group, says its new Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) is set to win about 40 percent of seats allocated to party lists in this week's vote, which passed off peacefully, albeit with many irregularities.

FJP officials say the party also leads the race for individual seats that make up a third of the total in the poll.

Al-Nour Party, one of several newly formed ultra-conservative Salafi Islamist groups, said on Thursday that it expects to pick up 20 percent of assembly seats overall.

"In light of the media campaign against us, we believe our results are largely acceptable," said Youssry Hamad, Nour's spokesman. "We are doing as well as the Muslim Brotherhood."

The liberal multi-party Egyptian Bloc has said it is on track to secure about a fifth of votes for party lists.

"For the first time in Egypt we don't see a political intention by the state to forge the elections," said Magdy Abdel Halim, coordinator of an EU-backed group of election monitors.

He said the infractions observed did not affect the legitimacy of a vote held in a "reasonably fair atmosphere."

Egypt's April 6 youth movement, a prime mover in the revolt against Mubarak, said an Islamist win should not cause concern.

"No one should worry about the victory of one list or political current. This is democracy and this great nation will not allow anyone to exploit it again," its Facebook page said.

If the FJP and Nour secure the number of seats they expect, they could combine to form a solid majority bloc, although it is far from certain the Brotherhood would want such an alliance.

Senior FJP official Essam el-Erian said before the vote that

Salafis, who had kept a low profile and shunned politics during Mubarak's 30-year rule, would be "a burden for any coalition."

The FJP might seek other partners, such as the liberal Wafd or the moderate Islamist Wasat Party, set up by ex-Brotherhood members in 1996, although only licensed after Mubarak's fall.

Nour Party spokesman Hamad said solving Egypt's problems might be beyond one party. "We believe a coalition government that comprises all political streams is the best option. The burden is too much after all these years of corruption."


Some Egyptians fear the Muslim Brotherhood might try to impose Islamic curbs on a tourism-dependent country whose 80 million people include a 10 percent Coptic Christian minority.

Ali Khafagi, the leader of the FJP's youth committee, said the Brotherhood's goal was to end corruption and revive the economy. Only a "mad group" would try to ban alcohol or force women to wear headscarves, he said.

The priority of the Brotherhood, which gained trust by aiding the poor under Mubarak, is likely to be economic growth to ease poverty and convince voters they are fit to govern.

Essam Sharaf's outgoing government quit during protests against army rule last month in which 42 people were killed, most near Cairo's Tahrir Square, hub of the anti-Mubarak revolt.

Kamal al-Ganzouri, asked by the army to form a "national salvation government," aims to complete the task in the next day or two, but acknowledged on Wednesday that five presidential candidates had turned down invitations to join his cabinet.

Protesters who returned to Tahrir last month, angered by the military's apparent reluctance to cede power, say the generals should step aside now, instead of appointing a man of the past like Ganzouri, 78, who was a premier for Mubarak in the 1990s.

Mohamed Taha, 46, an accountant who supports the liberal Egyptian Bloc, said the election showed that young activists had failed to present a viable program. "Their revolution was stolen and they are stuck searching for who stole it," he said.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Egypt election: Long queues in first post-Mubarak vote

Election in Egypt
Large numbers of Egyptians have turned out to vote in the first elections since former President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in February.

Voting was extended to cope with the high turnout and few security problems were reported.

There had been fears the vote might be delayed after deadly protests against the interim military rulers who replaced Mr Mubarak.

Protesters occupying Cairo's Tahrir Square have boycotted the vote.

The protesters fear the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces led by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, which is overseeing the transition to democracy after decades of authoritarian rule, is trying to retain power.

At least 41 demonstrators have been killed and more than 2,000 wounded in the past 10 days, as tensions have flared in the Arab world's most populous state.
Voters 'energised'

Early on Monday, queues formed outside polling stations in Cairo before the official opening time of 08:00 (06:00 GMT).

A high turnout was reported in many areas, and in places queues were said to have stretched up to 3km (two miles).

"Before we knew in advance who was going to dominate, so apathy was the order of the day," Alexandria taxi driver Etimad Sameh told Reuters news agency. "Today we don't know what the outcome will be. Voters are energised."

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo called the scene at a polling station there a "chaotic celebration of democracy", as people pushed to cast their votes.

Elsewhere, more orderly queues formed.

Officials blamed a delay to the voting in some Cairo constituencies on the late arrival of ballot papers and a shortage of ink and administrative officers.

The head of the Supreme Judicial Committee for Elections, Judge Abdel Moez Ibrahim, said voting would be extended until midnight in all constituencies affected by a late start.

Later, the military council said all polling stations would remain open an extra two hours until 21:00 to accommodate the high turnout.

In a violation of election rules, pamphlets for some candidates were distributed outside some polling stations.

State-run TV reported that 25 people were injured in election-related violence.

In Assiut, in the south, the army said it had regained control after a shooting incident. Officials denied reports that voters there had attacked polling stations.

There have also been reports that in Cairo and Port Said, candidates' numbers on voting cards had been changed.

Leftist candidate Al-Badry Farghali, in Port Said, told the BBC this had happened to him and another candidate, George Ishaq, a well-known activist.

Lengthy process

Voters in nine provinces, including Cairo, Port Said, Alexandria and Assiut vote on Monday and Tuesday in the first stage of a process extending until March.

Other provinces take their turns through December and early January for elections to the 508-member People's Assembly.

Voting for the upper house, or Shura Assembly, of parliament takes place after that and the presidential election is supposed to be held by mid-2012.

About 50 million people are eligible to vote out of a population in excess of 85 million - with candidates from 50 registered political parties.

The new parliament is likely have a strong Islamist bloc led by the Muslim Brotherhood, liberal groupings and some reconditioned relics of Hosni Mubarak's old party, says the BBC's Kevin Connolly in Cairo.

Official results from the first phase of voting should be announced on Wednesday, but the final make-up of the lower and upper house of parliament will not be clear until March.

News by BBC

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Egypt: American Tear Gas, Policy Loom Over Tahrir Square

Cairo, Egypt
CAIRO -- At the foot of Mohamed Mahmoud Street, just a few feet from the resounding crowds in Tahrir Square, a group of people gathered around a man holding four canisters above his head.

"Tear gas! Rubber bullets! Nerve gas!" he cried out, displaying the spent metal canisters.

"Where are they from, America?" people asked, already knowing the answer.

"Yes, America," the man replied furiously. The crowd murmured with unsurprised disdain. Like many gas canisters in Tahrir, one of his was marked with blue letters that read "Made in USA" and bore the name of the company that produced it: Combined Tactical Systems, in Jamestown, PA.

For days, similar scenes have played out across Tahrir. Tear gas has become a persistent companion in the square, a troublesome cousin who crashes on the couch and fails to leave. Wafting in from the clashes up the street -- except in a few rare instances where it has been fired directly onto the square -- the gas lingers in the air, causing, from afar, noses to run and a sour taste in the mouth.

But the added indignation of an American connection -- on the street, protesters insist it is more like collusion -- is a potent blow.

"You know where this is from," another man, standing next to a field clinic across the street, said with a glare Wednesday, as he held up a thick metal canister shaped like a short bottle of spray paint.

"This is from America. America sent it to bomb Egypt."

Nearby, an 18-year-old in a red soccer jersey sat slumped on the sidewalk in the clinic, pawing at his eyes and moaning. He had been pulled from the fray a few minutes earlier, where the gas was much more intense. The burning sensation had briefly rendered him unable to speak. Now and then, a nurse came by and poured a homemade solution -- a mixture of antacid, topical anesthetic, and saline -- from a reused bottle of Dasani water over his face.

"It feels like my eyes are burning," the boy, who said he was from Giza, cried out after he had finally composed himself. "I can't open my eyes, I can't breathe. The gas they're using, it's different from before. I don't know where they got it from, but it's really different -- and it takes a lot longer to heal."

All day Wednesday, as the fighting around the square reached its 100th hour, people with severe cases of gas exposure -- not to mention rubber-bullet wounds -- came streaming into field clinics and dozens of first aid stations scattered near the combat zone.

At the corner of Tahrir Street and Yousef el Guindi Street, not far from the front lines, a young man wearing a white lab coat spattered with blood struggled to find a moment of peace to explain what he'd seen these past few days.

"I'm so tired," he said, with a weary smile. Suddenly, a motorbike careened up to the curb, ferrying a boy in a black sweatsuit. The fighters around Tahrir have established a makeshift ambulance system for the combat zone, with pairs of men on motorbikes who race in and out of the fight, and deliver the injured -- upright, and sandwiched between them -- to the nearest doctor.

The boy tumbled onto the rug that demarcated the first aid station.

"Hold on," the doctor said as he raced over to his new patient, grabbing him by the shoulders. "Stay awake! Stay with me," he yelled. The patient only had a rubber bullet wound on his leg, but he was young, perhaps just 15 years old, and he wailed in pain. The doctor and his two nurses sprayed him with an antibiotic foam, and sent him down toward the larger field clinics in the square.

"That was one of the easiest cases I've had yet," the doctor said when he came back. He introduced himself as Ali Sharif, and said that he was actually just a third-year medical student. He is 19 years old.

Another motorbike pulled up, this one ferrying a balding, middle-aged man in a tracksuit who had clearly succumbed to tear gas inhalation. The man was red in the face and his body sat rigidly between two people riding the motorcycle-ambulance; when it stopped, he nearly keeled over. Sharif huddled over him, urging him to cough, while the man spit up phlegm onto the sidewalk. Sharif signaled for another motorcycle, waiting nearby, to shepherd the man to a better-equipped clinic.

"That man has a heart condition, so I told him I couldn't treat him here," Sharif said when he stood back up. "Ninety percent of the cases we see of people injured are from tear gas, just normal cases. But since last night, a lot of what they've used is some other kind of gas, it's much stronger. When we start first aid the patients seem normal, but then after a while they start screaming and they lose control over their bodies, and start shaking."

Sharif is one of many around Tahrir who insist that the security forces have recently begun using a more potent form of the gas -- CR, rather than the typical CS -- or perhaps even nerve agents. (He says he has a canister of "nerve gas" that was made in China at his home.)

Unlike CS, which is commonly used by police and military forces around the world, CR has been connected with fatalities in the past, and evidence exists it may be a carcinogen. The United States military has ceased using CR out of health concerns.

So far, however, conclusive evidence about the use of other gases has proven nearly impossible to find.

"So far we have only seen [canisters] with CS on them," said Karim Medhat Ennarah, a political and security reform researcher for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, which has spent the past two days seeking evidence of other forms of gas being used.

The Guardian recently reported that many sources have complained that protesters are suffering from effects more commonly associated with powerful gases like CR, but the paper was unable to confirm the existence of canisters with those letters on them. In several hours looking around Tahrir, The Huffington Post only came across canisters marked CS, as well as a few that were unmarked. Heba Morayef, a researcher with Human Rights Watch who has also been investigating the reports, said that the unmarked canisters are likely Egyptian-made.

Instead, it seemed more likely to observers and human rights investigators that most of the severe cases of tear gas exposure come from the tendency of riot police to fire four or five rounds of gas at a time, and from the fact that most of the skirmishes are taking place in narrow, confined alleyways.

"What we can say beyond doubt is that it's definitely excessive use of tear gas and that's probably behind a lot of the problems it's causing," Ennarah said. "It can be used for crowd dispersal, but they seem to be using it as a kind of punishment."

The U.S. State Department denied on Tuesday that the gas was purchased with American "security assistance funds," but did acknowledge that direct sales between the government and American companies have been authorized in the past.

The use of American-made tear gas has only compounded the sense among many of Tahrir's most ardent protesters that the U.S. plays a malicious role in Egyptian politics, seeking to reinforce the status quo -- in this case, the military, which they have good relations with -- rather that supporting the aspirations of demonstrators.

Over the past several days, Tahrir and its surrounding areas have become an increasingly unwelcome place to foreigners, with many foreign reporters describing xenophobic exchanges, and being subjected to random credential checks. Direct attacks on foreign journalists by the crowd have remained at a minimum.

From the start, the U.S. State Department has delivered tempered remarks on the contest between demonstrators and riot police, initially calling for restraint from "all involved," and urging "everybody" to focus on the nation's first democratic parliamentary elections, which are still scheduled to begin on Monday.

The U.S. government faces a particularly difficult challenge in Egypt because it has long backed the forces of stability -- first Hosni Mubarak, now the military regime -- as a bulwark against the rise of militant Islam. Now, the parliamentary elections which begin on Monday are expected to deliver a majority to the conservative Muslim Brotherhood, something the U.S. does not appear to mind so long as a friendly military government is there as a steward.

On Tuesday, State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland directed her message more sharply to the Egyptian government, saying, "We condemn the excessive force used by the police."

But she also backed the speech of Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the current leader of the military regime ruling the nation, who addressed the nation Tuesday night and pledged to complete the transfer of power to civilian hands by mid 2012. (When the speech concluded, security forces once again barraged Tahrir with tear gas.)

For those like Ali Sharif, standing at his corner medical station, the struggle is far from over.

"I've been here nonstop since Saturday, except for only four hours of sleep," he said. "Sometimes I wish they would all just go home, so that I could too."

Sharif laughed. In fact, he doesn't want the struggle to end -- "I'm doing this for Egypt," he said -- but he does sometimes find himself yelling at the young fighters who keep making their way back to his station to find another use for their time.

"I tell them I'm getting tired of seeing them," Sharif said. "But they never listen to me. They all go back."

News by Huffingtonpost

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

At least Two killed, hundreds hurt in Egypt protest clashes

Clash in Egypt
(Reuters) - Protesters demanding an end to army rule and angered by rough police tactics battled with police on Sunday, presenting Egypt's ruling generals with their biggest security challenge yet, a week before parliamentary elections.

Two people were killed and hundreds wounded in clashes on Saturday night reminiscent of some of the worst violence during the 18-day uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak in February.

Youths in Cairo chanted "The people want to topple the regime" as they rushed at police, who fired rubber bullets and teargas. Protesters clashed with police in two other cities.

Egypt holds its first parliamentary election since Mubarak's overthrow in a staggered vote that starts on November 28. Many Egyptians are worried that police will not be able to secure the polls, although the army insists that it can.

Presidential powers remain with the army after the vote. A row has erupted between political groups and the army-picked cabinet over ground rules for drafting the constitution that could leave the military free of civilian control. Parliament is to pick the assembly to draw up the constitution.

There was sporadic violence on Sunday after the worst overnight clashes subsided. More than 5,000 protesters were still gathered in Tahrir on Sunday afternoon, many saying they would not to leave until their demands were met.

Demonstrators wore masks to protect against teargas and showed off spent gas canisters and bullet casings. Metal barricades had been set up on approach roads to Tahrir Square, where Egyptians gathered to bring down Mubarak.

Many Egyptians are angry that nine-months after ousting Mubarak, the army remains in charge and police are still using the same heavy-handed tactics against demonstrators.


"We are on the brink of danger. Those asking for the government to fall are asking for the state to fall," Egyptian army General Mohsen Fangary told a television channel.

He said the election would go ahead on time and the army and Interior Ministry would maintain security. He also said the army, in line with a timetable previously announced, aimed to return to barracks by the end of 2012. Presidential elections could be held by then.

The army-backed cabinet had outraged many Egyptians by presenting proposals for the new constitution that would have shielded the army's budget from civilian oversight and given it a broad national security remit.

It had amended the proposals to give civilian powers more say but not enough to prevent Friday's protest.

After a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister Ali al-Silmi said: "We will not back down from the last proposed amendments to the constitutional document."

As police fired round after round of teargas at protesters near the Interior Ministry, closer to Tahrir the demonstrators laid sheets of metal to block roads into the square.

"I tell you, do not leave the square. This square will lead the way from now on," presidential candidate Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, a hardline Islamist, told a group of protesters early on Sunday. "Tomorrow the whole of Egypt will follow your lead."

During Saturday's clashes, protesters broke chunks of cement from pavements and hurled them at police.

"We don't expect anything from the military council, they will ignore us like what used to happen during Mubarak's days," said Abdallah Belal, a 21-year-old student in Tahrir.

The state news agency quoted the Health Ministry as saying 942 people had been wounded and two people were killed. It said a man, 23, was killed in Cairo by a gunshot to the chest and a man in the second city Alexandria had a gunshot to the head.

A security official said police had not used live rounds and had used lawful methods to deal with "troublemakers." The army stayed away from fighting.

The army won popular backing during Mubarak's overthrow for maintaining order and pledging to hand power to an elected government, but support has ebbed over its use of military trials for civilians and suspicion that it wants to continue to wield the levers of power after a new government is sworn in.


About 5,000 protesters had converged on Tahrir on Saturday afternoon when police tried to evict the remnants of a 50,000-strong demonstration a day earlier, mostly by Islamists demanding the departure of the military.

Police beat the protesters, most of them not Islamists, with batons and fired teargas to regain control of the square, only to retreat after night fell.

Protests erupted in other cities. About 800 people gathered in front of the security directorate in Alexandria, chanting: "Interior Ministry officials are thugs."

About 1,000 gathered outside a police station in the eastern city of Suez, site of some of the worst violence in the uprising. They threw stones at it and tried to force their way in. Police fired teargas and shot in the air.

Liberal groups are dismayed by the military trials of thousands of civilians and the army's failure to scrap a hated emergency law. Islamists eyeing a strong showing in the next parliament suspect the army wants to curtail their influence.

Analysts say Islamists could win 40 percent of parliamentary seats, with a big portion going to the Muslim Brotherhood.

"We are not political parties and we hate the Brotherhood who gave up on the revolution and the people," Medhat Fawzy said. "We are Egyptian youth," he said, flashing a victory sign.

The liberal April 6 Youth movement said the interior minister should quit for ordering the use of force against a peaceful protest.

Friday's rally appeared to be the biggest Islamist challenge to military rule since the largely secular uprising that toppled Mubarak. The demonstrators were mainly Brotherhood members and their harder-line Salafi rivals.

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Israel and Egypt are preparing for a prisoner exchange

AFP - Israel and Egypt were preparing Thursday to a exchange of prisoners between Israeli-American citizen accused of spying Ilan Grapelli and 25 Egyptians detained in Israel. The exchange is expected Thursday afternoon. The Israeli authorities will carry on the bus the prisoners to Egyptian Taba, a border to the Egyptian Sinai, while Ilan Grapelli, 27, will be repatriated to Israel by plane from Cairo. The Egyptian prisoners were imprisoned for drug trafficking, weapons or illegal infiltrations into Israeli territory. Among them are three children who had infiltrated into Israel, told AFP Siwan Weizman, spokesman for the prison administration.

They were gathered Thursday morning in a Beer Sheva prison pending their transfer to Eilat in southern Israel. They will then be transported to Taba where they should arrive at 5:00 p.m. (1500 GMT), said the spokesman. At the same time, the plane carrying Ilan Grapelli, who was arrested four months ago in Cairo, fly to the Egyptian capital to Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv. According to Israeli media, the device landed around 18:00 local. Ilan Grapelli will then be brought to Jerusalem where he will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Friday before leaving for New York.

The Egyptian prisoners will be entitled to receive offficielle in a hotel in Taba which must involve the Governors of North and South Sinai, as well as representatives of the Bedouin community living on the peninsula. The Israeli Supreme Court rejected the appeals on Wednesday night against the exchange by a party of the extreme right by claiming that it did not intervene in a decision under political power. Ilan Grapelli, who holds dual Israeli and American citizenship, was presented by the Egyptian authorities as a "Mossad officer" seeking to "undermine the economic and political interests of the country." He was accused of coming to Egypt at the beginning of the revolt that caused the downfall of President Hosni Mubarak to "incite chaos and sectarian strife."

Israel has denied all these allegations by talking "error" on the part of Egypt. This exchange of prisoners came after the one that led to the release last week of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit held for more than five years in the Gaza Strip in exchange for a first contingent of 477 Palestinian prisoners.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Egyptian minister resigns over protester deaths

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's finance minister resigned Tuesday to protest the government's handling of weekend protests that left 26 dead, most of them Coptic Christian demonstrators, an aide to the minister said.

Hazem El-Beblawi's resignation, which state television also announced, is the first by a senior government official in the aftermath of Sunday's clashes in Cairo — the worst violence in Egypt since the country's uprising eight months ago.

The resignation came after some 20,000 mourners chanted slogans denouncing the ruling military during a funeral procession overnight for 17 Christians killed in the protest. They accused the army of bearing primary responsibility. Mourners packed the Coptic cathedral in Cairo for the funerals that began shortly before midnight Monday and lasted for several hours. They filled hallways and corridors as prayers were led by top church officials.

At times, the prayers were interrupted by chants of "Down with military rule" and "The people want to topple the Marshal," — a reference to Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi who heads the ruling military council that took power after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in February.

After the service at the cathedral, a small group of mourners marched to central Cairo's Tahrir Square with the body of Mena Danial, one of the activists killed Sunday. Danial's friends said that he had wanted to have his funeral in Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the 18-day uprising.

The violence Sunday night began when thousands of Coptic Christians marched to the state television building to stage a sit-in over a recent attack on a church. As they marched, state television called on civilians to "protect" the army, casting the Christians as a mob seeking to undermine national unity.

Witnesses among the protesters said the march started out peaceful but turned violent when the Christians were attacked by civilians wielding sticks, throwing stones and firing birdshot. What happened next is not fully clear. But a video circulating widely shows at least two military vehicle plowing through crowds of Christian protesters at high speed and running some of them over.

Rights activists and witnesses also say soldiers fired directly at protesters. State television claimed protesters had attacked soldiers. Clashes then broke out between Muslims backing riot police and soldiers on one side, and Christians and some Muslims on the other side. Forensic reports showed many of the deaths were caused by armored vehicles that ran down protesters, or by gunshots.

Security officials said at least three soldiers were killed, though it remains unclear how they died.

In the two days since the violence, Christians have grown furious with the ruling military, hurling a string of accusations in their direction. The Coptic church said authorities allow attacks on Christians repeatedly with impunity. Muslim perpetrators of sectarian violence are rarely punished in Egypt, with the authorities opting instead for "reconciliation" talks in which Christians are pressured to drop their accusations.

Finance Minister El-Beblawi, in a letter to Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, said he was tendering his resignation over the "government's handling of Maspero," his aide told The Associated Press, referring to the state television building by its popular name. He effectively told Sharaf that he "can't work like this," the aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said that the role of military in killings of protesters should be probed thoroughly and impartially by an independent judicial authorities not by the military prosecutor.

"Time and again since February, the Egyptian military has used excessive force in responding to protests," said HRW spokesman Joe Stork. "The high death toll from the clashes on October 9 shows the urgent need for thorough investigations that lead to accountability and better protection for the Coptic community."

The military responded to the events on Sunday night by issuing a stern warning that it intended to crack down hard on future protests. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said it would take the "necessary precautions to stabilize security" and use the full weight of the law to prosecute individuals involved in violence, whether by participation or incitement.

Since Mubarak's ouster, rarely a month passes without an assault against Christians, especially in rural areas where the government's presence and power is weaker.

Sunday's violence followed a buildup of tensions sparked by a mob attack on a newly built church in the southern Egypt town of Edfu on Sept. 30. The construction or repair of churches is a major source of sectarian tension in Egypt. Some local Muslims claimed that the construction of the Edfu church was illegal, while church officials said that they had permission from authorities to replace an old church with a new one.

Remarks by the local governor that the church was illegal fueled Coptic anger and kicked off small protests by Christians, first in the provincial capital of Aswan and then in Cairo.

A government fact-finding mission confirmed that the Christians had the right to build a church, and also supported the governor's removal. The mission released its report earlier this month but no action was taken.

The Coptic church announced three days mourning, fasting and prayers as Christians' sense of injustice hit a new high. One priest said that the fast was a means of showing loss of confidence in the authorities. He said such a measure had not been invoked by the church since former President Anwar Sadat's program of Islamizing laws during the 1970s.

Some Muslims said they would join the Christians in their fast in solidarity. A campaign named "Fast4Egypt" spread on social networking sites.

The outcry over the deaths may push Egypt's military rulers to address some Coptic grievances. The Cabinet has already announced it would issue a new law regulating houses of worship in two weeks, and that the law would criminalize religious discrimination.

In another apparent overture to Copts, authorities on Monday executed Hamam al-Kamouni, who was convicted and sentenced to death for shooting dead seven Christians in Christmas Eve in 2010 in Nagaa Hammadi, a town 290 miles (460 kilometers) south of Cairo.

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