Elspeth Lodge March 9, 2011 – 3:28 pm
Wednesday Cabinet meets for the first time
Conflict raged on in Egypt’s Tahrir Square Wednesday as the newly appointed cabinet met.
During the meeting, authorities decided to redeploy the police force on Thursday. The state news agency reported that among topics discussed were “sectarian strife” and its impact on the nation and economy.
In the wake of recent conflict between Coptic Christians and Muslim groups, the military has sent out a message of unity to the Egyptian people. They warn against chaos “which threatens national security, especially with the existence of foreign forces targeting the country’s stability and security.”
The revolutionary groups which rose up against Mubarak have demanded a major shakeup of the security forces, including the dissolution of an internal security agency with a reputation for human rights abuses and spying on citizens.The military council has scheduled a referendum on constitutional reform for March 19. The amendments will open the way to elections for the presidency and parliament, after which the military says it will hand power to a civilian government.
The Wednesday scene in Tahrir Square
Tahrir Square is homebase to hundreds of pro-democracy activists, but the area is still extremely insecure, as evidenced by violence that erupted Wednesday between pro- and- anti- Mubarak forces.
“Hundreds of men carrying knives and swords entered Tahrir,” state television reported, as footage showed rocks being thrown and hundreds of activists scattering and diving for cover.
“A couple of hours ago the pro-Mubarak thugs attacked us and tried to come into Tahrir, but we were able to push them back, with sticks and stones. We fear they will return,” a young militant, Mouez Mohammed, told AFP.
The only signs of security in the area Wednesday, according to reports from AFP, were two army tanks protecting the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities at the north end of the square; police disappeared from the streets during last months protests.
Activists continue to camp in the square, the heart of last months protests and strive to maintain pressure on the military regime that replaced Mubarak.
Violence ignited Tuesday between Coptic Christians and Muslims.
The Health Ministry said 13 people were killed and 140 wounded in a conflict that erupted between Christians and Muslims in Cairo on Tuesday. It is still unclear how many Christians versus Muslims died in the uprising, but over one hundred people were injured.
“The clashes erupted after Christian protesters blocked a major highway to protest the burning of a church on the outskirts of the Egyptian capital last week,” reports Radio Free Europe. “That burning was sparked by a row over a love affair between a Christian man and a Muslim woman.”
Angry Muslims came together to battle the Christians blocking the road and both sides attacked each other with weapons: guns, clubs and knives to name a few. Hundreds of people took part in the violence that ensued, throwing petrol bombs and rocks, witnesses told Reuters.
“The system now does not have the strength or the authority or even the military power to separate Muslims and Christians, if, God forbid, there are further implications,” political analyst Diaa Rashwan said. “The system does not even have the power to ease traffic,” he added.
To try and release tensions between the two groups, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the military council, has said the military would rebuild the church before Easter, reports Reuters.
The Coptic Church, which represents the minority Christian population (around 10%), issued no comment on the violence and a church official declined to speak about it. In the past, the church has urged calm after such violence.
With files from Reuters and AFP