Egypt: Protestors killed in Cairo attack

Over 20 people have been killed during armed battles in the Egyptian capital.

Violence broke out on the streets of Cairo today as armed assailants attacked a group of protestors. The attackers used shotguns, firebombs, rocks and clubs, killing more than 20 people, and injuring a further 150. The identity and exact motive of the assailants remains unknown.

Many of the protesters had gathered at a sit-in rally outside the Ministry of Defence building to protest against restrictions placed upon the Salafist preacher Hazem Abu Ismail, who has been disqualified from standing in Egypt’s forthcoming presidential elections due to the dual US-Egyptian nationality of his mother. Only Egyptian nationals who are born to Egyptian parents and who do not hold dual citizenship can qualify for candidacy, according to a new election law issued in mid-January.

The BBC is reporting that the attackers may have been local people angered by the disruption caused by the sit-in, which began at the weekend.

Egyptian authorities have come under criticism for their alleged slow response to the attacks. It took six hours for the violence to be stopped. Responding to the conflicts, several presidential candidates decided to suspend their election campaigns.

Egyptians are due to go to the polls later this month. According to rules set by a referendum last year, the new president will serve for four years and be able to serve two consecutive terms. The election of a new president will mark a return to democratic rule, as Egypt’s interim military ruling council Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) hand governing powers back to elected politicians.

The election’s first round is scheduled for 23 and 24 May, with a run-off vote for the top two candidates expected on 16 and 17 June.

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