EGYPT

Cairo protesters believe their attackers are army thugs-for-hire

 Under Hosni Mubarak, Egyptians became used to living with “baltagiyas" - thugs paid by the government to lend a helping hand to its security forces. The former president was ousted last February, but many Egyptians protesting against the current military regime claim that the new leaders are continuing Mubarak’s tradition, and using hired thugs to crack down on demonstrations.

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Photo of a box of food stamped with the army’s logo, which was allegedly found in the area where the protesters were attacked Wednesday. Protesters disseminated the image on the Internet, taking it as proof that their attackers were paid by the army (see our Observers’ explanation, below). Photo published by @Mad_Darsh on Twitter.

 

 

Under Hosni Mubarak, Egyptians became used to living with “baltagiyas” -  thugs paid by the government to lend a helping hand to its security forces. The former president was ousted last February, but many Egyptians protesting against the current military regime claim that the new leaders are continuing Mubarak’s tradition, and using hired thugs to crack down on demonstrations.

 

In the early morning hours Wednesday, as they were holding a sit-in to protest military rule in front of the defence ministry, protesters representing various political sensibilities were attacked by a group of unidentified men. After several hours of fighting – with weapons including Molotov cocktails, metal bars and even firearms – the army finally intervened and separated the protesters from their attackers. The attackers’ identities, as well as their motivations, remain unclear. However, opposition leader Mohamed el-Baradei accused the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the Egyptian military’s ruling body, of being “in cahoots with thugs.”

"We found boxes of food with the army's logo in the area to which the thugs retreated"

Our Observer @Mad_Darsh was on the scene during Wednesday’s clashes.

 

At several points during the clashes, when protesters were gaining ground, the thugs retreated and regrouped further away. After they left for good, we went to this part of the street where they had regrouped, and in the middle of the debris, we saw boxes on the ground. These boxes had food in them, and had the army’s logo on the side. I didn’t see thugs carrying these boxes with my own eyes; still, to us, it’s proof that the SCAF works with these thugs. I also took a photo of a tear gas canister I found on the scene; I believe this is further proof that the thugs and the army are in cahoots. Who could get their hands on this type of ammunition without being in some way linked to the security forces?

 

FRANCE 24 cannot independently verify that this photo was taken during Wednesday's clashes in Cairo.