Pre-election violence kills twenty in Egypt

Pre-election violence kills twenty in Egypt

Some 20 people were killed and more than 160 wounded near Egypt’s Defense Ministry yesterday after armed men assaulted protesters demanding an end to army rule, prompting two Islamist candidates to suspend their presidential election campaigns.

Unidentified “thugs” armed with guns or batons attacked demonstrators who included hundreds of ultraconservative Salafi Islamists protesting at the exclusion of their candidate from this month’s vote, state news agency MENA reported. Hazem Salah Abu Ismail was thrown out of the presidential race because his mother held dual Egyptian-U.S. citizenship, which violates eligibility rules for running in the election. It was not clear if the victims were all protesters or if any of the attackers were among the dead, according to the Associated Press. It was also not clear who the attackers were.

Transfer of power on May 24: army

Security and medical sources gave a toll of 20 dead and over 160 wounded in the clashes outside the Defense Ministry in central Cairo’s Abbasiya district. The fighting raged on unabated through the morning, but subsided in the afternoon.

The army sent in extra vehicles and troops, but pledged in a statement not to disperse peaceful demonstrators, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s military chief of staff said the army may transfer power to an elected president on May 24 if the vote is decided in the first round, state television reported. The military had previously said it would transfer power by the end of June.

The presidential election is scheduled for May 23 and 24 and a run off for June 16 and 17 if there is no outright winner in the first round. Brotherhood’s presidential candidate Mohammed Morsi said he would not campaign for two days to mourn the dead. The other leading Islamist candidate, Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh, also suspended campaigning indefinitely in protest at the way the authorities had handled the protest, a spokesman said.