Military official: Armed forces ready to protect Tahrir protesters

The armed forces “are ready to provide Tahrir Square with security forces to protect it from assaults, if protesters want them," a senior military official has said.

Clashes erupted between protesters, Interior Ministry forces and military police in downtown Cairo on Saturday after a sit-in in the square was forcibly dispersed. The violence is continuing on Monday for the third day and so far has left at least 22 killed and more than 1000 injured.

In a press conference on Mohamed Mahmoud Street, off Tahrir Square, Major General Saeed Abbas, deputy chief of the armed forces' central command, suggested that these forces would be unarmed.

A video showing military police brutally dealing with protesters in the square with the help of Central Security personnel was posted by activists on the internet and shown by satellite TV channels.

Abbas did not answer some of the journalists' questions, for example, one pertaining to who ordered the decision to end the sit-in and to use live ammunition against protesters.

He denied that the armed forces or police have used any kind of live bullets in dealing with protesters over the past two days.

He claimed that police and the armed forces are only securing the Interior Ministry and are not present in the square.

He also denied that the armed forces broke into Tahrir Square to end the sit-in.

“Unknown people went to the tops of buildings and were shooting protesters to create a division among them, the police and the army,” he claimed, saying that foreign elements are in the background causing the violence.

“Tahrir Square is a vital area for many companies. Closing it causes huge losses,” he said, referring to a LE7 billion loss recorded by Egypt's stock market on Sunday.

Translated from the Arabic Edition

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