CAIRO — Egypt’s military ruler attended Saturday an unprecedented public funeral for a soldier killed in clashes with protesters as the army detained 179 people over the violence in the run-up to landmark presidential polls.
Following the arrest of 320 people after Friday’s clashes near the defense ministry in Cairo, the prosecution “has decided to hold 179 people, including 13 women, for 15 days pending investigation,” a military source said.
The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) had imposed an overnight curfew in the Abbassiya neighborhood after fighting between troops and anti-military protesters that left two people dead – including a solider – and nearly 300 injured.
The clashes erupted just three weeks ahead of Egypt’s first presidential election since a popular uprising ousted president Hosni Mubarak last year.
The SCAF has vowed to hand power to civilian rule when a president is elected, but protesters believe the army wants to maintain a degree of power even after the elections and fear the polls will rigged in favor of a pro-military candidate.
In Cairo, military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi attended the funeral of Samir Anwar Ismail, who died in Friday’s clashes.
Tantawi and his deputy Sami Enan, joined the procession after the funeral prayer for Ismail, a member of a special forces unit, his comrades told AFP.
Horse-drawn carriages pulled the coffin behind honor guards carrying wreaths as Tantawi, Enan and other SCAF members followed alongside the family of the dead soldier.
The military in the past had refused to disclose their casualties in clashes with protesters, saying it did not want to affect the morale of the army.
But it made an exception with Ismail’s funeral because “his death at the hands of protesters represents a clear attack on the army,” an officer said.
Saturday’s press called for an end to the violence, with state-owned newspapers calling on protesters to confine their demonstrations to Tahrir Square – the epicenter of the uprising that toppled Mubarak.
“Tahrir is calling Abbassiya: Go back to the square,” the state-owned Al-Gomhuriya said on its front page headline.
“Enough Blood,” said the government owned Al-Akhbar.
On Saturday morning, after the curfew ended at 0500 GMT, the protests had subsided in the area surrounding the defense ministry, while soldiers and armored personnel carriers blocked off a road leading to the ministry.
Officials at Al-Zahra University hospital said on Friday they received two people who died in the skirmishes outside the ministry. A frontline medic group said they died of gunshot wounds.
The health ministry said only the soldier died, while at least 296 people were hurt in the clashes, including 131 who were treated in hospital.
The SCAF had imposed the curfew starting from 2100 GMT, and pledged in a statement to “decisively confront” any attempts to break it. — AFP