Protesters rejected the apology as hollow, saying that the best way to respect the dead would be for the council to delay the elections and to step down after what they described as months of backsliding on revolutionary goals. The military council has tried some 12,000 civilians in military court _ more than Mubarak did in three decades _ and sought to quell dissent through arrests, intimidation, media censorship and smear campaigns against human rights groups, activists said.
If the supreme council cared for any of those who were killed or injured, or any of those protesting in Tahrir Square, theyd delay elections for two weeks and start sorting out the mess they caused because of their incompetency and carelessness, said Wael Mohammed, a university student.
Instead of assuaging fears with Thursdays overtures, protesters said, the council only caused more alarm with a new order that some analysts criticized as opening the door for vigilantism on Election Day.
The supreme councils communique No. 85 called on honorable citizens to be on high alert at protest scenes and to immediately arrest any suspected individuals without harming them and to turn them over to authorities. The council also encouraged ordinary Egyptians to arrest anyone on rooftops overlooking protest sites and to help the military move the injured to hospitals.
By late Thursday, a tenuous peace held in Tahrir Square. Plumes of tear gas had subsided and the steady wail of ambulances had quieted.
The military erected an 8-foot-high barricade of cement blocks and barbed wire to cordon off Mohamed Mahmoud Street, which leads to the Interior Ministry and was the scene of the deadliest battles of the past week. Volunteers, many of them Islamists, stood several rows deep as a human buffer between protesters and the nearby riot police.
It took (the ruling generals) seven days to put an end to one confrontation on one street, so how am I supposed to believe theyll secure polling stations all over the country? asked Mohammed, the student.
But the scene was still tense, and several reports emerged of both foreign and Egyptian journalists being attacked in the square. A female French journalist was stripped of her clothing and endured a 45-minute sexual assault by men and boys in the square, she told news outlets. Other foreign reporters were roughed up, intimidated or had equipment stolen, they announced on Twitter.
Rumors spread that the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypts largest Islamist group and best-organized political force, had cut a deal with the council to help restore order in the square. The group is favored for an electoral sweep and vehemently opposed a delay in the vote. The Brotherhood was an important force in the uprising that brought down Mubarak but lost many non-Islamist fellow revolutionaries with its decision to sit out this weeks uprising.
In online statements, the Brotherhood denied any deal with the council.
Friday is expected to be a test of the rejuvenated uprising that this time has the military councils downfall in its sights. If the protesters can sustain huge demonstrations, activists and analysts said, they might still have a shot at forcing a vote delay and more concessions from the council.
I think well see another wave of public anger against the military tomorrow, Gad, the analyst, said. The square is already boiling.
(Sabry is a McClatchy special correspondent.)
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