UNFAZED by TV cameras, Egyptian troops have brutalised protesters in a bid to crush opposition to military rule in nearly 48 hours of continuous fighting in Egypt’s capital that has left more than 300 injured and nine dead.
They pulled women across the pavement by their hair, knocked off their Muslim headscarves and kicked young activists in the head until they lay motionless in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
The clashes erupted on Friday overshadowing the count from the second phase of the first parliamentary elections since president Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February.
Demonstrators hurled stones and pieces of metal over a concrete wall erected by troops on a wide avenue leading from Tahrir Square to the seat of government.
Outrage flared yesterday as furious protesters brandished the front page of a local paper showing military police clubbing a veiled woman after having ripped her clothes to reveal her bra.
In the picture and YouTube footage of the incident, the woman is sprawled on the ground, helmeted troops towering over her, one is seen kicking her, and later she appears unconscious, her stomach bared and her bra showing.
Other pictures circulating on social media networks that have enraged protesters include one of a military policeman looming over a sobbing elderly lady with his truncheon.
The clashes were the deadliest in weeks.
The health ministry said late on Saturday that the violence had killed 10 people and wounded 500 since Friday.
Prosecutors ordered that 17 people arrested on Saturday be remanded in custody for four days.
The clashes also took their toll on the historic Institute of Egypt, which was set alight on Saturday.
Yesterday a group entered the premises to recover ancient manuscripts, some of which were burned.
The institute for the advancement of scientific research was founded in 1798 during Napoleon Bonaparte’s expedition to Egypt.
Culture Minister Shaker Abdel Hamid said the fire that ripped through the institute was “a catastrophe for science”.
“The building contained important manuscripts and rare books which have no parallel in the world,” Abdel Hamid said on state television late Saturday.
He said efforts were being made to salvage what can be saved and announced the creation of a committee of experts to restore the books and manuscripts “when conditions permit”.
Egyptian authorities have squarely blamed the protesters for the deadly unrest.
The military council that has been ruling Egypt since Mubarak’s ouster late Saturday posted footage on its Facebook page and YouTube of protesters ransacking a government office on Friday.
“Is it not our right to protect the people’s property?” said a brief message.
Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzuri raised tensions on Saturday by accusing the protesters of being counter-revolutionaries and denying security forces had opened fire.
“Those who are in Tahrir Square are not the youth of the revolution,” he told a news conference.
“This is not a revolution, but a counter-revolution,” added Ganzuri, who also served as prime minister under Mubarak.
His appointment last month by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) had prompted protesters to launch a sit-in outside the cabinet offices.
The demonstrators want the SCAF to hand over full powers to a civilian administration.
The military has said it will step down only once a president has been elected by the end of June in the final stage of a protracted transition.