Egyptian soldiers and police set fire to protest tents in the middle of Cairo's Tahrir Square and fired tear gas and rubber bullets in a major assault today to drive out thousands demanding that the military rulers quickly transfer power to a civilian government. At least 11 protesters were killed. It was the second day of clashes marking a sharp escalation of tensions on Egypt's streets a week before the first elections since the ouster of longtime authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak in February.
Pro-democracy protesters who led the uprising have grown increasingly angry with the ruling generals, and suspect they are trying to cling to power even after an elected parliament is seated and a new president is voted in. "We have a single demand: The marshal must step down and be replaced by a civilian council," said one protester, referring to Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, head of the ruling military council and Mubarak's longtime defense minister. He said the violence shows "that Mubarak is still in power." (The militia attacked protesters yesterday too.)