Egyptian army troops wielding batons and firing in the air dispersed dozens of activists holding a traditional Ramadan meal in Cairo's central Tahrir square Friday, witnesses said.
The soldiers moved in shortly after the activists broke their daily fast during the Muslim holy month with a communal meal after sundown. The clampdown indicates Egypt's military rulers will no longer tolerate any gathering in the square, which served as the epicenter of the uprising that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak.
"I was hit on my head with a stick. They ran after us. We could hear the electrified batons," activist Gigi Ibrahim said. "We kept saying enough we are leaving. They fired in the air all along."
"They are taking control of Tahrir and preventing any attempt of gathering there even if symbolic," she added.
Earlier Friday, scores of protesters attempted to hold a public funeral for a protester who died from injuries sustained during a demonstration last week near the Defense Ministry. Security forces prevented the funeral from taking place in the heart of the square.
Security forces have been heavily deployed in Tahrir since Monday when they drove out the final protesters of a nearly monthlong sit-in. The demonstrators were demanding swifter justice for former regime officials, and pressed the military rulers to weed out remnants of the old regime from public life.
Many people had called for the sit-in to end to give the military time to act on the protesters demands. Although most of the protesters had pulled out by that time, the forceful reaction to the remaining scores was an indication the military was growing impatient with the street pressure.
Also, Mubarak went on trial Wednesday on the charges of conspiring to kill nearly 900 protesters who during the uprising. The trial addressed one of the activists' key demands.