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Army Takes Tahrir Square As New Violence Hits Egypt

Mar 9, 2011

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Mayhem erupted in Egypt's Tahrir Square Wednesday afternoon, as the army clashed with crowds in the spot that was the center of protests against the resigned Hosni Mubarak. Outside of Cairo, other clashes pitted Muslims against Christians.

NPR's Steve Inskeep was at the square in Cairo today. As he told All Things Considered co-host Robert Siegel, "Men armed with clubs and stones repeatedly attacked Tahrir Square, and repeatedly were beaten back. It's not at all clear who the attackers were."

You can hear more of Inskeep's description of the events here:

A video of the mayhem that followed was posted on YouTube, with the images showing soldiers in uniform forcibly removing tents and gear. While it's difficult to identify who was attacking whom in every instance, the confusion is obvious:

Inskeep said that a protester told him that when the Egyptian Army appeared, "people thought the army was there to protect the protesters."

"But in fact they weren't; they smashed into the encampment," Inskeep says.

"By the next time that I passed the square, early evening here in Cairo, it was entirely under the soldiers' control."

Amnesty International has released a statement condemning the Egyptian military's actions Wednesday.

"We do have a reminder here that this is not a democracy as of this minute," says Inskeep.

The events came after several days of building tensions in Egypt. Outside of Cairo Wednesday, fighting between Muslims and Christians left 13 people dead. Here are details from the AP:

Clashes this week between Muslims and Christians in Egypt that killed 13 and wounded 140 have deepened a sense of chaos as the police and ruling military struggle to maintain order barely a month after a popular uprising ousted longtime leader Hosni Mubarak.

In a sign of how much security has broken down, the pitched battles, the deadliest in years, went on for nearly four hours Tuesday night as both sides fought with guns, knives and clubs. Army troops fired in the air to disperse the crowds to no avail.

The new Cabinet sought to reassure Egyptians on Wednesday night, ordering police to immediately take back the streets.

The spasm of violence offered a glimpse of what has gone wrong in a one-time police state that now finds itself with less than half of its security forces back to work and a military that does not have enough troops on the ground.

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