11 killed in Cairo clashes as presidential election campaign descends into …
Egypt’s presidential election campaign was thrown into violent disarray Wednesday after at least 11 people were killed when an unidentified mob attacked an Islamist protest camp in Cairo.
Rival groups hurled petrol bombs and stones at each other as clashes in the capital’s Abbasiya district raged throughout the day, threatening to pitch Egypt into a familiar cycle of bloodshed.
Amid a febrile atmosphere of suspicion and acrimony, much of it directed at Egypt’s military rulers, two leading religious candidates in a field already depleted by a series of controversial disqualifications suspended their campaigns.
Secular and religious critics of the military administration that has ruled Egypt since President Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow last year were quick to suggest that army provocateurs were behind the pre-dawn raid on protesters camped out near the defence ministry.
Mohammed ElBaradei, a leading secular dissident who is not running in this election, which begins on May 23, claimed that the military leadership was either unable to protect civilians or was “in cahoots with thugs”.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, which won parliamentary elections earlier this year, spoke of an “evident plot” by the military to obstruct the promised handover to civilian rule by the end of next month.
The violence began shortly before dawn when a group of unidentified men attacked Islamist protesters who had camped out near the defence ministry to demand an end to military rule and protest against the disqualification of Hazem Abu Ismail, the leading religious Salafi candidate, from the presidential race.
Witnesses reported hearing gunshots during the fighting and saw Mr Ismail’s supporters retaliate almost as violently. More than 150 people were injured, according to doctors.
Protesters said that some of the attackers they had overpowered were carrying army ration packs. It was only in the early afternoon that armoured vehicles and riot police formed a cordon to separate the two groups.
Mohamed Morsi, the candidate for the Muslim Brotherhood, said he would suspend his campaign for 48 hours “in solidarity with the protesters”.
Abdel Moneim Aboul Foutouh, a former Brotherhood leader and front-runner in the election, also suspended his campaign.
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