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Egyptian Security Cracks Down In Tahrir Square


It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Laura Sullivan.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Foreign language spoken)

SULLIVAN: In Egypt this weekend, violent clashes between protesters and police have left at least 10 dead and hundreds injured. Yesterday, police attempted to break up a small protest in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the symbolic center of Egypt's uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak. The situation steadily escalated today. Additional protesters flooded into the square and they managed to hold it. This comes just eight days before Egypt's first parliamentary election since Mubarak was ousted from power in February.

Reporter Merrit Kennedy is on a balcony overlooking Tahrir Square right now, and she joins us. Merrit, it - I can hear a lot of sirens. What are you seeing today?

MERRIT KENNEDY, BYLINE: Well, the atmosphere in the square is really quite tense right now. There are thousands here and there is a pitched battle continuing on a side street leading into the square between protesters and police. The ambulances are taking injured protesters out of the action. This afternoon, the army joined the police and briefly cleared all protesters out of the square.

Eyewitnesses said that several protesters died in that incident and a number were injured. The protesters are back now in the square and they intend to stay.

SULLIVAN: What are the protesters' issues with the interim military government, and how is the government reacting?

KENNEDY: Well, the original protest on Friday was called for out of concern that the military was trying to secure power even after elections. But now protesters are more explicit. They're calling outright for the ruling military council to turn power over to a civilian government. They say they've lost their trust in the army's ability to manage the transitional period, and they cite missteps, human rights violations and broken promises.

On the other hand, the cabinet has called these protests deliberate chaos. Prime Minister Sharaf has explicitly asked demonstrators to leave the square and has urged them to think about the interests of the country, which seems to mean stability and a smooth electoral process.

SULLIVAN: Well, parliamentary elections in Egypt are supposed to be about a week away. Are they in jeopardy now?

KENNEDY: At this point, it's probably too soon to say. The ruling military council and cabinet insist they go through a schedule, saying they won't be derailed by chaos. But a number of prominent parliamentary candidates have announced that they're suspending their campaigns for the time being due to police brutality in the last few days. This is essentially the eve of these parliamentary elections, and both the protesters and security forces are showing no signs of backing down.

SULLIVAN: That's Merrit Kennedy at Cairo's Tahrir Square. Merrit, thank you so much.

KENNEDY: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.