Chaos reigns in Cairo amid fears of second revolution
Police and army units appeared to have recaptured Cairo's Tahrir Square last night after a weekend of deadly violence raised fears that Egypt was on the brink of a second revolution -- this time against the country's military leadership.
At least six protesters were reportedly killed and nearly a thousand more wounded in scenes redolent of the uprising that overthrew Hosni Mubarak, the former president, nine months ago.
The unrest, which spread to other major cities, was among the most serious -- and the most threatening -- since Mr Mubarak's downfall.
For the first time since the revolt, Egypt's black-uniformed police force, one of Mr Mubarak's most hated instruments of repression, was deployed in force, a fact that served to exacerbate rather than alleviate tensions.
Protesters in Tahrir Square said they now saw no difference between the generals and the president they succeeded.
"The violence is the same as the old regime," one said.
With the mood hardening, many called for the military to step aside immediately.
"The marshal must step down and be replaced by a civilian council," Ahmed Hani, one protester, was quoted as saying. "The violence yesterday showed us that Mubarak is still in power."
Freshly scrawled graffiti near the square put it more succinctly: "The marshal is Mubarak's dog."
For two days, the police battled an ever swelling number of protesters in Cairo, opening fire with tear gas, rubber bullets and bird shot in the city's Tahrir Square -- the epicentre of the revolution that toppled Mr Mubarak -- and the streets off it.
The demonstrators retaliated with an endless volley of stones and the occasional Molotov cocktail and by yesterday afternoon the storied square appeared once again to be in the hands of the people. Just as in late January and early February, protesters erected barricades at its entrance points, checking the identity papers of all who wanted to gain access.
But the retreat by the security forces was only a temporary one, designed to regroup rather than admit surrender.
The generals ruling Egypt are all too aware that losing control of Tahrir Square meant that Mr Mubarak's downfall became virtually inevitable, and are anxious not to suffer the same fate.
Egypt's transition to civilian rule, which passes a major milestone when the first elections since Mr Mubarak's downfall are held next week, has been far from smooth.
But never before has the antipathy towards the military leadership that has managed Egypt since February been as marked as it is now. (© Daily Telegraph, London)