CAIRO — Hundreds of protesters were still camped out in Cairo’s Tahrir Square Sunday following a night of bloody clashes with rival demonstrators loyal to the ruling military council, an AFP reporter said.
Fierce battles erupted in the Abassaya neighbourhood after anti-regime protesters were blocked from reaching the headquarters of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).
The health ministry said that 231 were injured when police fired tear gas and protesters were pelted with stones and rocks by rivals loyal to the army.
After the clashes, protesters headed back to join others camped out in Tahrir Square — the epicentre of protests that ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February.
The fighting in Abassaya came hours after SCAF accused groups in Tahrir, including the April 6 pro-democracy movement, of sowing instability.
Looking tired and dispirited, protesters vowed nonetheless to continue pressing for change.
“We will stay in the square,” where a sit-in is into its third week, said Mohammed Amr, 32, wearing an eye patch.
Amr, a tour guide from the canal city of Suez, was injured in the overnight clashes and doctors say he may have lost his sight in one eye.
Asmaa Ibrahim, 19, who was in Abassaya, said she was beaten during the clashes.
“They beat everyone, even the girls. We won’t stop talking,” said Asmaa, on the verge of tears, wearing the same yellow dress as the day before.
Under the blazing sun, a man played the oud, a traditional string instrument. He said he was trying to “cheer people up.”
On Saturday, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of SCAF and Mubarak’s long-time defence minister, pledged in a television address to work for a free system through fair elections and a constitution.
But the military rulers accused the April 6 movement of “driving a wedge between the people and the army.”
In a statement distributed to reporters, the youth group denied the military’s accusations.
“We used to think that the revolution changed matters for the better, but we were filled with sadness after this statement was issued,” it said.
Despite Mubarak’s spectacular downfall, protesters have continued to take to the streets to denounce the military council over the slow pace of reform.
The military has also come under fire for alleged rights abuses and for using Mubarak-era tactics to stifle dissent.
Since July 8, protesters have camped out in Tahrir Square, vowing to continue until their demands are met.
They are calling for the trial of former regime officials, an end to military trials of civilians, the purge of Mubarak officials from senior government posts and the redistribution of wealth.