25 killed as Egyptians clash with army in Cairo

Video shows security forces storming al-Hurra TV headquarters, forcing end to broadcast.

In the worst violence since February when 18 days of demonstrations lead to the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak, Egyptian military police clashed with protesters in the centre of Cairo yesterday, leaving 25 people dead and 272 wounded.

Tahrir Square became the epicentre of renewed violence when rioting spread from a nearby state television building. According to the Associated Press, Coptic Christians protesting against the demolition of a church in southern Egypt "came under assault by people in plain clothes and were later confronted by security forces." Further into the evening, Christians and Muslims were killed by gunfire and armoured vehicles after 1,000 troops deployed by state authorities moved into the centre of the city.

Egypt's official news agency, Mena, reported that dozens of "instigators of chaos" were arrested following the clash. A curfew over the city was lifted at 5am GMT Monday.

The video above shows Egyptian security forces entering the headquarters of all-Hurra TV news station during the violence. The broadcast was very shortly removed from the air.

UK foreign secretary William Hague has released a statement in which he withholds suggestion of an instigator for the violent outbreak:

I am deeply concerned by the unrest yesterday in Cairo and I condemn the loss of life. I urge all Egyptians to refrain from violence and support the Egyptian prime minister's call for calm. It is essential that all sides take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation and engage in dialogue. The freedom of religious belief is a universal human right which needs to be protected everywhere, and the ability to worship in peace is a vital component of any free and democratic society.

Commentators on Twitter, meanwhile, have been laying blame for the deaths on the ruling military council, Supreme Council of the Armed Forces -- see #SCAF

Alice Gribbin is a Teaching-Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She was formerly the editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Donald Trump's threats give North Korea every reason it needs to keep nuclear weapons

The US president's warning that he may “totally destroy” the country is a gift to Kim Jong-un's regime. 

Even by Donald Trump's undiplomatic standards, his speech at the UN general assembly was remarkably reckless. To gasps from his audience, Trump vowed to "totally destroy" North Korea if it persisted with its threats and branded Kim Jong-un "rocket man". In an apparent resurrection of George W Bush's "axis of evil", the US president also declared: “If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph". 

For North Korea, Trump's words merely provide further justification for its nuclear weapons programme. Though the regime is typically depicted as crazed (and in some respects it is), its nuclear project rests on rational foundations. For Kim, the lesson from the fall of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi was that tyrants pay a price for relinquishing their arms. The persistent threats from the US strengthen the regime's domestic position and reinforce a siege mentality. Though North Korea must be deterred from a pre-emptive strike, it must also be offered incentives to pursue a different path. 

As Trump's Secretary of State Rex Tillerson remarked last month: "We do not seek a regime change, we do not seek a collapse of the regime, we do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula, we do not seek an excuse to send our military north of the 38th Parallel. We are not your enemy... but you are presenting an unacceptable threat to us, and we have to respond. And we hope that at some point they will begin to understand that and we would like to sit and have a dialogue with them."

The present nadir reflects the failures of the past. In 1994, the Clinton administration persuaded North Korea to freeze its nuclear programme in return for economic and diplomatic concessions. A communique declared that neither state had "hostile intent" towards the other. But this progress was undone by the Bush administration, which branded North Korea a member of the "axis of evil" and refused to renew the communique.

The subsequent six-party talks (also including China, Russia South Korea and Japan) were similarly undermined by the US. As Korea expert Mike Chinoy records in the Washington Post in 2005, the Bush administration provocatively "designated Macau's Banco Delta Asia, where North Korea maintained dozens of accounts, as a 'suspected money-laundering concern.'" When a new agreement was reached in 2007, "Washington hard-liners demanded that Pyongyang accept inspections of its nuclear facilities so intrusive one American official described them a 'national proctologic exam'".

For North Korea, the benefits of nuclear weapons (a "treasured sword of justice" in Kim's words) continue to outweigh the costs. Even the toughened UN sanctions (which will ban one third of the country's $3bn exports) will not deter Pyongyang from this course. As Tillerson recognised, diplomacy may succeed where punishment has failed. But Trump's apocalyptic rhetoric will merely inflate North Korea's self-righteousness. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.