CAIRO -- Egyptian security forces firing tear gas clashed with more than 5,000 rock-throwing protesters in central Cairo late yesterday, leaving dozens injured in the latest unrest to rattle the country, witnesses and medical officials said.
Clouds of tear gas and the wail of police sirens engulfed Tahrir Square as lines of security forces in riot gear battled to regain control of the central plaza from the demonstrators, many of them family members of the more than 850 people killed during the revolution that toppled Egypt's longtime ruler, Hosni Mubarak.
The families are frustrated with what they perceive as the slow prosecution of security officers believed to be responsible for the deaths of some 850 protesters during the 18-day uprising.
As yesterday's clashes dragged on into early this morning, rocks and shattered glass littered the streets around Tahrir, as protesters chanted: "Down with the military junta." Injured demonstrators lay on the ground, some bloodied and dazed.
The confrontation began early yesterday, when security forces cleared a sit-in outside the state TV building by the families of the slain protesters, said Nourredine, an engineer who gave only his first name.
"I was in front of the state TV building this morning when the security forces attacked," he said. "Since then, things have been escalating."
The protesters regrouped last evening outside the Interior Ministry, where rumor had it that two demonstrators wounded earlier in the day had been taken. It was not clear what sparked the violence outside the ministry, but eventually protesters were hurling stones and security forces firing volleys of tear gas and blocking off streets around the building.
The clashes then shifted to nearby Tahrir Square -- the epicenter of Egypt's revolution. In a sight unseen since the early days of the uprising, lines of central security troops in riot gear sealed off the main streets leading into the square, while dozens of security vehicles were parked in side streets.
The government response shocked many of the protesters, who compared it to the heavy-handed tactics used by the security forces before Mubarak's fall.