1:00am

Tue November 22, 2011
Africa

Amid Clashes, Egypt's Cabinet Offers To Resign

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer in for Renee Montagne.

Clashes between protestors and security forces continue across Egypt. That's despite an offer last night by the interim civilian cabinet to resign.

INSKEEP: Protestors weren't asking for the cabinet to quit. Rather, they are pushing to reduce the power of Egypt's military. In a moment, we'll hear what's happened when civilians in other nations try to keep their generals in check.

WERTHEIMER: We'll begin with the violence on the streets of Cairo. Just since Saturday, at least two dozen people have been killed and nearly 2,000 others wounded.

Medical workers are struggling to keep up, as NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING PROTESTERS)

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: The protestors in and around Tahrir Square shout slogans against the ruling military generals, as wave after wave of young men surge toward the black-clad riot police. But the security forces do not relent.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHOTS)

NELSON: They repeatedly fire tear gas into the crowd, which leads to a steady stream of wounded.

(SOUNDBITE OF HORNS HONKING)

NELSON: The injured are carried by comrades on motorbikes from the frontline. They take the wounded to field hospitals like this one in a mosque at the edge of the square. Dozens of weary volunteer medical workers triage the patients on dusty blankets spread outside.

Trauma surgeon Seif Khirfan says they see as many as a hundred patients an hour. Many of the injuries he treats are serious. He says he's seen evidence of live rounds being used.

DR. SEIF KHIRFAN: Well, the gunshots are the worst, especially the ones in the head - they are terrible. You see them for a very short while then you have to transfer them to a bigger hospital. But the few seconds that you actually get in contact with, is really tormenting to see.

NELSON: The doctor adds the tear gas appears to be more toxic than what police forces lobbed during the first uprising in January.

KHIRFAN: I think this new batch is causing a lot of nervous breakdowns and a lot of suffocation and respiratory problems, even burning in the face. We have to put burn ointments because they get burning in the face.

NELSON: Khirfan says the more seriously wounded protestors are taken inside the mosque.

KHIRFAN: It's our haven now, because the field hospitals were attacked twice by gas, so we can't rely on them for storage. And main surgery, we do it here.

NELSON: Workers stack a mountain of donated bandages, medicines and syringes against the walls. But many injuries, like the one suffered by 21-year-old Ayman Ahmad, need specialty care beyond what volunteers offer here. He was hit by a teargas canister that appears to have fractured his right knee.

AYMAN AHMAD: (Foreign language spoken)

NELSON: Ahmad says he's confident the protestors will win this battle and drive the ruling generals from power.

He's itching to get back to the frontline and his friends.

(SOUNDBITE OF SIRENS)

NELSON: But he is more likely to be taken by one of the dozens of ambulances here to a nearby hospital.

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Cairo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.

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