At least two members of a newly formed advisory council, expected to be an influential sounding board for the military rulers during the writing of a constitution, resigned in protest against the crackdown. Ahmed Khairy, a member of the Free Egyptians party, apologized for joining the military-appointed body.
“I announce my resignation from the advisory council and I apologize to all those who blamed me for joining,” he wrote on Twitter. “You were right.”
The Health Ministry said that at least eight people were killed in the clashes, which began before dawn Friday and were still raging Saturday morning. Protesters were throwing firebombs, igniting blazes, and witnesses reported live ammunition being fired into crowds. A doctor at a field hospital said at least seven people were injured by gunfire.
Early Saturday morning, flames erupted on Qasr el-Aini Street, which leads from Tahrir Square to the cabinet building, and in a government building. Hundreds of protesters threw stones at security forces that had sealed off the streets around the parliament building. According to the Associated Press, soldiers on rooftops pelted the crowds below with stones, forcing many of the protesters to pick up helmets, satellite dishes or sheets of metal to protect themselves.
“This is a threat to Egypt’s safety at this critical stage of the peaceful transition of power and elections,” said advisory council member Nadia Mustafa, who suspended her participation. “We are not willing to hear any more stories about a third party and infiltrator who is trying to cause strife between the people and the military” — a reference to authorities’ assertions that foreign conspirators are behind the unrest.
The military council said in a statement late Friday that soldiers were acting in self-defense against protesters who shot at them and lobbed rocks and Molotov cocktails. It did not explain the deaths of protesters or the injuries attributed to gunfire and blamed the media for stoking the unrest.
Later, the advisory council said at a news conference that it had urged the military council to end the violence against protesters, open an investigation, apologize to the injured, compensate bereaved families and release all those detained. It said all its members would resign if its recommendations were not met.
The initial popularity of the ruling generals has declined in the past 11 months, with activists accusing them of failing to reform government institutions and slowing the transition to civilian rule. The violence comes a day after judges said they were beaten by military police outside polling stations they were to supervise Thursday and some threatened to boycott the third round of voting, according to local news reports.