Army imposes curfew in Cairo district after clashes

Egypt’s army imposed an overnight curfew around the defence ministry in Cairo on Friday after protesters clashed with troops there during demonstrations against military rule and the exclusion of candidates from the presidential election.

A protester catches a tear gas canister thrown by security forces near Egypt's Defence Ministry May 4, 2012: REUTERS

The crowd hurled projectiles and insults at the soldiers sent to defend the ministry after 11 people were killed in fighting there on Wednesday, and called for the overthrow of the head of the ruling army council, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi.

The army fired back water cannon then teargas and riot police surged towards the crowd with batons. Scores of wounded protesters were taken away on motorcycles and dozens of soldiers were injured.

“Field Marshal leave. The people are dangerous,” shouted the crowds, and “Raise your voice. Our revolution will not die.”

The street violence comes less than three weeks before an election that represents the first chance for Egyptians to freely choose their leader. A successful vote would mark the most important step in a messy transition to democracy since the overthrow of autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak 15 months ago.

Last-minute changes to the line-up of contenders, bickering over a new constitution and suspicion that the military will continue wielding power after a new president is chosen are making for a chaotic backdrop to the campaign.

The troops pressed forward when protesters began cutting through barbed wire used to seal off the ministry building in Cairo’s central Abbasiya district.

Protesters ripped down a metal fence at an underground railway construction site to build a barricade. Some cried “God is Greatest” as army helicopters swooped overhead.

The teargas scattered the crowd far down the rock-strewn streets. Troops blocked off several streets between Abbasiya and central Cairo using armoured personnel carriers and some fired shots in the air.

The Health Ministry said 128 people were wounded, state news agency MENA reported. The injuries included teargas inhalation and cuts and bruises, some serious, and 82 people were taken to hospital.

“The crowd is coming here with sharp weapons. We have batons and water cannon and teargas to disperse them,” said one commander. “Some of them believe if they kill a soldier they will go to heaven. What do you expect us to do?”

VIOLENCE AFTER DARK

As dusk approached, gunfire rang out from the top of a mosque in Abbasiya. Army special forces climbed the minaret, brought down 10 people and drove them away.

The pro-democracy Sixth of April Youth movement said on its Facebook page its followers were withdrawing from the Abbasiya area because of the bloodshed.

Protesters regrouped closer to the town centre after dark, waiting to return to the defence ministry, and some threw rocks and stones at troops blocking their path, state media reported.

The one-night curfew will last from 11 p.m. local time (2100 GMT) to 7 a.m. on Saturday, the military council said in a statement read out on state television.

The army “calls on all citizens to adhere to this or the military will confront with determination those who try to violate it,” it said, vowing legal action against those responsible for the unrest.

Some election candidates suspended their campaigns on Wednesday after unidentified assailants fired at protesters camping near the defence ministry, starting clashes that the security forces seemed unable or unwilling to quell.

Many of those protesters were hardline Salafi Islamists upset that their candidate was ruled out of the vote, which begins on May 23 and 24 with a run-off in June.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which dominates parliament, saw its first choice disqualified too, handing a potential advantage to Mubarak-era contenders such as former foreign minister Amr Moussa and ex-prime minister Ahmed Shafiq.

Some Egyptians see the last-minute changes to the candidate line-up as proof the generals are trying to manipulate the vote.

“Remnants of Mubarak’s regime are not eligible to assume any power,” Hashem Islam, a sheikh from Egypt’s highest authority of Sunni Islam, Al-Azhar, told protesters at the defence ministry.

Several thousand Islamists, liberals and left-wing revolutionaries also massed on Friday in Tahrir Square, headquarters of the street movement that has transformed decades of tightly-controlled Egyptian politics.

Banners draped in Tahrir demanded implementation of a law banning figures from the Mubarak era from high office. Shafiq was briefly disqualified as a result of the law, but still found his way back into the final line-up of presidential candidates.

Members of the ruling military council on Thursday renewed a pledge to exit politics after handing power to the new president by mid-year. They said the handover could come earlier in the unlikely event that one candidate wins outright in the first round.

But tension between the army’s interim government and the Islamist-dominated parliament has left Egypt in a state of policy paralysis that is deepening an economic crisis caused by more than a year of political turmoil.

Mohamed el-Beltagy, a senior figure in the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party, said the violence since Wednesday was the result of a deliberate policy to draw an unpredictable reaction from protesters and delay Egypt’s political transition.

“This was done so that they (the authorities) could carry out emergency measures,” he said.

Iraq, six other nations build embassies in Abuja

Seven countries, Egypt, Iraq, Kenya, Turkey, Benin Republic, Serbia and Cote d’Ivoire, have started building their permanent embassies at the Diplomatic Drive, a street allocated to them in Abuja.


The Iraqi Ambassador to Nigeria, Ali Al-Amery, says the new embassy would be completed by April next year. According to  Al-Amery, a local construction company is n charge of the project which would cost about three million dollars.
On the other hand, the Ambassador of Serbia, Mr Rifat Rondic, says their construction project which would end at 2014 is being handled by Energo company, a Serbian firm.
Some embassies – Ghana, China, the United States, Niger, Angola, Sudan, Ethiopia, Cuba and Liberia – are already operating from the Diplomatic Drive.  Others are Palestine, North Korea, Brazil, Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso.
Meanwhile, apart from the embassies, the Diplomatic Drive area also houses a government agency, a church and an automobile dealership and this has led to criticisms by security experts.
“If government has designated the area for the embassies, no other agency should be situated there; it is called Diplomatic Drive; I believe the aim is to have a number of the diplomatic offices in one location.
“This is not only for easy access, but also for security reasons,” Mr. Emmanuel Ekpu, a security expert, said.
The UN House, attacked by the Boko Haram sect in August 2011, is also located on the Diplomatic Drive.

Egypt beats Nigeria in friendly

A last minute strike by Ahmed Hassan Mekky ensured victory for the Pharaohs of Egypt against a locally assembled Super Eagles of Nigeria in a friendly played in the United Arab Emirates capital, Dubai.

Nigeria opened scoring in the 13th minute through Sunday Mba who converted from close range a pass from strike partner Uche Kalu. Twelve minutes later, a deflected shot by Ahmed Temsah found its way to the back of the net and pegged the game at 1-1.

Former African footballer of the year (Home based), Mohammed Aboutrika converted a penalty to put North Africans ahead but their joy was short lived as a back heeled close range strike by Kalu Uche drew Nigeria level.

The Egyptians were however sent into a delirium when Mekky struck deep in injury time to secure a welcomed win for the Pharaohs ahead of their preparation for the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers.

Nigeria/Egypt duel cancelled

The highly anticipated duel between the Super Eagles and the Pharaohs may have been cancelled as a sponsorship glitch has forced the Egyptians to fold up their camp in United Arab Emirates (UAE). The match which was billed to take place in Abu Dhabi has been officially called off.

Coach Diaa Al Sayed revealed that they had received the letter yesterday from the UAE Football federation advising them of the development and were now scrambling to secure another sponsor.

Diaa also further informed that” Since we don’t know if the new camp will be in the UAE or not , we certainly cannot etch any games especially that against the Super Eagles in stone and have to cancel.”

The Coach also relayed that Egypt would try and reschedule the game as they really looked forward to playing Keshis new look Eagles whom they now ranked among Africa’s most improved teams. “We like Nigeria because they are local” added the Coach.

Next Egypt had hoped to face Angola but that too may now be a probability.

 

Two smugglers, including Israeli Arab, killed in shootout at Israel border

Israel Defence Forces confirmed today the killing of two men suspected to be smugglers in a shooting incident that involved IDF soldiers near the Israel-Egypt border, the Hareetz reported.

One of the two suspected smugglers who were gunned down today was an Israeli Arab, according to reports. They had been spotted after illegally crossing the border from Egypt into Israel. IDF soldiers had shouted a warning, ordering them to stop, before opening fire on the infiltrators and shooting the two suspects in the leg.

The suspected smugglers, alongside another suspect had attempted running back across the border into Egypt.

Two of the three suspects were killed in the ensuing gun battle with Egyptian border patrol, while the third fled into Sinai. The IDF says it is currently investigating the identities of both men, whose bodies are now with the Egyptian authorities.

One of the men is believed to be an Egyptian citizen, while the other an Israeli Arab, who Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram said died in the border town of Rafah.

Earlier this month, four smugglers were fired upon after illegally crossing the border by both Egyptian and Israeli forces patrolling the border, resulting in one death.

Egypt Crisis:Protesters dispersed by Security Forces

Thousands of protesters in Egypt Tahir Square were forcefully dispersed by the security forces backed by the army conscripts using teargas and batan at close range to ward the persistent protesters.

Egypt Protest

Protesters fled down sidestreets, away from sensitive areas where parliament, the cabinet offices and Interior Ministry are located.
Security forces had previously cleared the square briefly only to pull back when protesters returned in force.

The death toll of the protest has been put at 10 since the protest started three days ago.

Protesters are clamouring for the ouster of the enrals who took over power from the former President Mubarak.

The violence broke out just after the second stage of elections that Egyptians hope will bring stability and civilian rule.

Youths had earlier hurled rocks and petrol bombs at lines of security forces. Riot police appeared to have moved to the front line instead of soldiers.