Tahrir Square is again ablaze, this time literally, as clashes between Christians and Muslims have erupted into the full-blown violence of a riot.
Armed security forces, including not only 1,000 soldiers but also scores of armored vehicles, were called to the scene, and the resulting chaos ended in 24 deaths and 200 people injured. Mobs battled each other with rocks and firebombs, leaving streets torn up and windows smashed. Security forces fired tear gas to break up the struggle. Some of the worst fighting was outside the state television building and resulted in a curfew until 7 a.m.
The violence was sectarian, Christians fighting Muslims, but it was also directed at Egypt's caretaker government, whom the protesters continue to accuse of moving too slowly on reforms promised after Hosni Mubarak resigned as president. Many of the country's Coptic Christians, who make up 10 percent of the overall population, claim that the government has not acted strongly enough against ultraconservative Muslims who have damaged Christian churches and people in the past few weeks.
Egypt's Cabinet met in emergency session to decide on a course of action. Prime Minister Essam Sharaf later appeared on television, urging calm.