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Crowds mass in Cairo's Tahrir Square in protest of army

From Mohamed Fahmy, CNN
updated 1:26 PM EST, Fri December 23, 2011
Thousands of Egyptians gather in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Saturday during a rally to denounce the country's military rulers.
Thousands of Egyptians gather in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Saturday during a rally to denounce the country's military rulers.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Thousands gathered in Cairo in a mass demonstration against the country's armed forces
  • Demonstrators demand that Egypt's ruling military cede power to a civilian government
  • Demonstrators are calling for presidential elections to be moved ahead to January

Cairo (CNN) -- Thousands gathered in the Egyptian capital on Friday in a mass demonstration against the country's armed forces and its heavy-handed treatment of protesters, which has since drawn international condemnation.

Protesters could be seen erecting tents in Cairo's Tahrir Square, a location widely considered the epicenter of an uprising that brought down Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak earlier this year.

The move marks the latest in a series of protests around the capital, where at least 16 people were killed in recent days amid clashes with Egyptian authorities.

The unrest appears to largely stem from a stretch of assaults by police and defiant protests by demonstrators demanding that Egypt's ruling military cede power to a civilian government.

Protesters on Friday could be heard singing the country's national anthem and chanting slogans, such as "The honor of Egyptian women is a red line." They also put up a large projector screen in the city's square, which showed videos of violence against protesters and included testimonials by the injured and family members of those recently killed.

Days of clashes were further stoked last weekend by the beating of a woman at the hands of military officers, prompting Tuesday's so-called "Million Women" march, billed as an attempt to highlight regime violence against female demonstrators.

Egypt's ruling military council later expressed "great regret" to the women over recent attacks and vowed to hold accountable those responsible.

Security forces, meanwhile, on Friday appeared largely absent from the demonstration, according to CNN personnel at the scene.

But political groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party, as well as the Salfi Islamic Movement, said they were boycotting the events.

The country's Islamic Wasat Party, however, has decided to participate.

Elsewhere in Cairo, hundreds of protesters converged on the city's Abasya Square, chanting slogans such as "No to Destruction."

Large crowds also gathered in similar demonstrations in the Egyptian cities of Alexandria and Suez, according to state television.

On Wednesday, Egypt's military announced on Facebook that they had acquired information of a "plan to vandalize government buildings and topple Egypt on January 25, 2012."

The date would mark the one-year anniversary of the start of Egypt's uprising that largely began in Tahrir square on January 25, 2011.

Demonstrators have also called for the country's presidential elections, scheduled to take place in June, to be moved ahead to instead take place on the anniversary.

A Ministry of Health spokesman, meanwhile, said that some 30 ambulances have been stationed near Tahrir Square and a field hospital has been set-up in anticipation of possible clashes.

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