- (Photo: Reuters/Asmaa Waguih)
At least 11 people have been killed in Egypt, after a group of unknown assailants opened fire on protesters who had gathered in front of the defense ministry in the nation's capital.
Egypt's ruling military forces, which have been in charge ever since taking down former President Hosni Mubarak's dictatorship last February, have faced an increasing amount of international scrutiny for the numerous violent crackdowns on anti-government protesters.
The attackers who targeted the protesters in Cairo on May 2 used rocks, clubs, firebombs and shotguns to kill 11 people and injure 150 others, and although they have not been identified as of yet, many in Egypt believe they were acting on behalf of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), the BBC reported. The assailants were dressed as "plain-clothes thugs," which is reportedly well-known attire for government supporters.
The demonstrators were mostly supporters of ultra-orthodox priest Salafi Sheikh Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, who was disqualified from the election because he has dual America-Egyptian citizenship.
Apparently, soldiers and police did show up to stop the clashes and help the wounded – but that reportedly happened as long as six hours after the attacks began.
As a result, two leading presidential candidates have suspended their campaigns in protest of what they see as further attempts by the government to silence Egypt's people. Those candidates include Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh, an independent Islamist, and Mohammed Mursi, head of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP).
What is more, Egypt's new parliament, in which the FJP and the vastly conservative Salafist Al-Nour party hold together 70 percent of the seats, decided to cancel a meeting with the Supreme Council of Armed Forces in protest of the attacks.
"Massacre in front of [the ministry of defense]," wrote Mohamed ElBaradei, a former U.N. observer and former presidential candidate, on Twitter. "SCAF & government unable to protect civilians or in cahoots with thugs. Egypt going down the drain."
The Supreme Council of Armed Forces has also often been accused of failing to protect the country's Coptic Christians, who have been killed in large numbers by Muslim extremists during other anti-government protests.
The military government has promised to step down in June, after a civilian election chooses a new president to lead the troubled nation in its transition.