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 Images
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The buck doesn't stop with Grant Shapps - and probably shouldn't stop with Lord Feldman, either

The question of "who knew what, and when?" shouldn't stop with the Conservative peer.

If Grant Shapps’ enforced resignation as a minister was intended to draw a line under the Mark Clarke affair, it has had the reverse effect. Attention is now shifting to Lord Feldman, who was joint chair during Shapps’  tenure at the top of CCHQ.  It is not just the allegations of sexual harrassment, bullying, and extortion against Mark Clarke, but the question of who knew what, and when.

Although Shapps’ resignation letter says that “the buck” stops with him, his allies are privately furious at his de facto sacking, and they are pointing the finger at Feldman. They point out that not only was Feldman the senior partner on paper, but when the rewards for the unexpected election victory were handed out, it was Feldman who was held up as the key man, while Shapps was given what they see as a relatively lowly position in the Department for International Development.  Yet Feldman is still in post while Shapps was effectively forced out by David Cameron. Once again, says one, “the PM’s mates are protected, the rest of us shafted”.

As Simon Walters reports in this morning’s Mail on Sunday, the focus is turning onto Feldman, while Paul Goodman, the editor of the influential grassroots website ConservativeHome has piled further pressure on the peer by calling for him to go.

But even Feldman’s resignation is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Although the scope of the allegations against Clarke were unknown to many, questions about his behaviour were widespread, and fears about the conduct of elections in the party’s youth wing are also longstanding. Shortly after the 2010 election, Conservative student activists told me they’d cheered when Sadiq Khan defeated Clarke in Tooting, while a group of Conservative staffers were said to be part of the “Six per cent club” – they wanted a swing big enough for a Tory majority, but too small for Clarke to win his seat. The viciousness of Conservative Future’s internal elections is sufficiently well-known, meanwhile, to be a repeated refrain among defenders of the notoriously opaque democratic process in Labour Students, with supporters of a one member one vote system asked if they would risk elections as vicious as those in their Tory equivalent.

Just as it seems unlikely that Feldman remained ignorant of allegations against Clarke if Shapps knew, it feels untenable to argue that Clarke’s defeat could be cheered by both student Conservatives and Tory staffers and the unpleasantness of the party’s internal election sufficiently well-known by its opponents, without coming across the desk of Conservative politicians above even the chair of CCHQ’s paygrade.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.