Cairo, Nov 21: At least 35 people have been killed in a fresh wave of clashes in Egypt's iconic Tahrir Square that has cast a shadow on the November 28 elections, the first since Hosni Mubarak's downfall.
Police and military forces today used batons, tear gas and birdshot to clear the central square of thousands of protesters demanding that the ruling military cede power to a civilian authority.
The state TV showed images of the square, the symbolic heart of protests that toppled Mubarak in February, with tear gas canisters smoking.
However, earlier in the day, a state TV station had reported a truce between the security forces and the protesters on Tahrir, mediated by Shaykh Mazhar Shahin, the Imam of Umar Makram mosque situated in the square. The agreement stipulated the protesters to remain in the square and the security personnel around the ministry of interior with the army in a neutral zone.
The morning truce was announced after several people were killed yesterday, kicking off a violent countdown to the country's first elections since the end of Mubarak's 30-year-rule.
Overnight clashes left several dead and 1,700 injured in Tahrir square.
It was the second day of violence in the Egyptian capital, following a peaceful anti-military mass rally on Friday.
Egypt's cabinet, which held crisis talks for several hours before moving en masse to the headquarters of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) for another meeting, said in a statement that parliamentary elections scheduled for November 28 would go ahead.
The SCAF, in a statement read out on state television, said it “regretted” what was happening. It said it was committed to the elections timetable.
Earlier Mohsen al-Fangari, a member of the council, insisted the election would go ahead as planned and that the authorities were able to guarantee security.
“We will not give in to calls to delay the elections. The armed forces and the interior ministry are able to secure the polling stations,” Fangari told a talk show on the Egyptian satellite channel Al-Hayat.
Several prominent political figures and intellectuals, including former UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei, earlier issued a call for a delay to the legislative polls.
Meanwhile, hundreds of demonstrators today rallied in front of Port Said, city hall and security directorate in protest against al-Tahrir Square incidents. In Alexandria, security forces have arrested around 80 people involved in the rioting in front of the security directorate.
Also in Qena, security reinforcements were deployed around the Qena security directorate to prevent protesters from storming into the building.