As our colleague David Kirkpatrick reports from Cairo, Egyptian soldiers chased down and beat unarmed civilians on Saturday, even while the prime minister appointed by the military “was denying in a televised news conference that security forces were using any force.”
While Egyptians who rely on state-run media outlets might have accepted the official explanation, video shot by activists and independent journalists clearly showed that uniformed soldiers attacked protesters.
Photographs and video of soldiers beating a female protester whose traditional hijab veil had been stripped off caused particular outrage. Several activists, including Mohamed ElBaradei, responded with anger to a Reuters photograph of the attack on the woman, which showed a soldier kicking her bare midriff.
After video broadcast by the private channel CBC appeared to show some of the incident, activists pointed to this edited footage which showed the woman being beaten in more detail, even though she might have been unconscious the whole time.
As the Egyptian blogger who writes as Zeinobia reported, the military apparently took steps to make sure that there would not be much video evidence to contradict the official narrative. She wrote that when troops stormed Tahrir Square on Saturday, members of the military police also raided apartments with views of the square used by local and foreign television channels and confiscated cameras.
A freelance photographer who managed to record this video of the soldiers sweeping through Tahrir Square, Tom Dale, wrote on his Vimeo channel: “Several journalists’ cameras were confiscated and destroyed today. The army missed this one.”
Mr. Dale provided his footage to Mosireen, an activist collective dedicated to documenting events in Egypt. Another Mosireen filmmaker recorded this scene, of soldiers carrying the body of a man who was either unconscious or dead.
A third clip posted on Mosireen’s YouTube channel on Saturday showed a graffiti artist painting a portrait of one of the protesters killed the night before, as fire tore through the Egyptian Scientific Institute in the background.
While there was a dispute about how the building had caught on fire, the independent Cairo daily Al-Masry Al-Youm reported that eyewitnesses said that a Molotov cocktail aimed at soldiers throwing rocks from a nearby building had struck the institute by mistake. Soon after the fire started, activists rushed to save ancient books stored inside it.
As Al-Masry Al-Youm explained, the institute was established in 1798 by Napoleon Bonaparte after the French invasion of Egypt and “its library contains more than 200,000 books.”
One of the activists who was present, Adel Abdel Ghafar, reported on Twitterthat even as protesters were fighting with soldiers nearby, the two sides were “cooperating to save what’s left of the books.” Minutes later, however, he posted an update explaining that the activists working to save the library had come under renewed attack from soldiers hurling rocks and glass.
Perhaps responding to the flood of video evidence of brutality by soldiers, Egypt’s military rulers, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, tried to push back online by posting footage of its own on YouTube that appeared to show some civilians engaged in what looked like vandalism during the unrest.
While activists posted a number of photographs and video clips of men in plain clothes hurling rocks at protesters, the blogger and activist Gigi Ibrahim reported on Saturday night that “thugs” interviewed on Egyptian state television claimed that they had been paid by protesters to wreak havoc.
By ROBERT MACKEY and ELIZABETH HARRIS, December 17, 2011