CAIRO (AP) — Assailants attacked demonstrators gathered outside the Defense Ministry in Egypt’s capital to call for an end to military rule with rocks and firebombs, killing one protester and wounding 30, security officials said on Sunday.
They said the clashes broke out late Saturday when the unidentified assailants set upon the protesters, also hurling fireworks and empty glass bottles. Neither army troops or police attempted to stop the three-hour street battle, witnesses said. They also reported hearing gunshots.
The officials said the dead protester was a supporter of ultraconservative politician Hazem Salah Abu Ismail. Many of those outside the ministry were Abu Ismail supporters angered by his disqualification from running in next month’s presidential election. He was thrown out of the race because officials ruled his late mother had dual Egyptian-U.S. citizenship in violation of eligibility rules.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Demonstrations in Egypt have frequently been attacked by unidentified assailants, particularly protests which are near or outside the Defense Ministry.
Rights and pro-democracy activists have blamed the attacks on undercover police, petty criminals on the police payroll, plainclothes army soldiers or supporters of the ousted regime of authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak for the attacks.
Mubarak-era generals took over the reins of power when their patron stepped down 14 months ago in the face of a popular uprising. Opposition to their rule has built up over the last year after they were blamed for killing protesters, jailing critics of their rule and putting at least 10,000 civilians on trial before military tribunals. They have also launched a systematic campaign to undermine the youth groups credited with Mubarak’s stunning ouster, using the state media to portray them as irresponsible and linked to foreign powers.