Hundreds injured in clashes outside Egypt defense ministry | News | DW | 04.05.2012
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Hundreds injured in clashes outside Egypt defense ministry

Egyptian security forces and protesters have clashed close to the defense ministry in Cairo, with protesters throwing rocks and police responding with water cannon and tear gas. Hundreds were injured in the clashes.

Protesters near Egypt's defense ministry ignored a warning not to approach the building and advanced on Friday, some of them throwing stones. Security forces used tear gas and water cannon in their efforts to disperse the protesters.

The Egyptian health ministry reported that at least one person, a conscript soldier, had died in the clashes and around 296 people had been injured. The army arrested 170 people, according to military sources cited by the Associated Press and news agency AFP.

Calls to join the defense ministry demonstration in the eastern district of Abbasiyah were broadcast at the iconic Tahrir Square, where thousands of people had gathered for Friday prayers.

Watch video 01:42

Hundreds wounded in clashes in Cairo

The military later announced in a televised statement that a curfew would be implemented in the Abbasiyah area overnight, starting at 11 p.m. local time (2100 GMT). It called on all citizens to obey the curfew, saying "the military will confront with determination those who try to violate it."

Protesters near the defense ministry and in Tahrir Square chanted for the removal of Egypt's interim military ruler - in charge since former President Hosni Mubarak was toppled last February - Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi.

Pre-election tensions

The demonstrations, taking place before the May 23-24 presidential elections, came in response to an attack on Wednesday by unidentified assailants targeting a sit-in. At least nine people were killed in those clashes, according to the health ministry.

The sit-in was originally organized to protest the disqualification of hard-line Islamist candidate Hazem Abu Ismail. The Salafist candidate was barred from running because his mother allegedly held dual American-Egyptian citizenship, which is against Egyptian electoral law.

The presidential elections would mark one of the last steps on what has proven to be a long road to democratic rule since Mubarak's ouster. Last-minute exclusions of would-be presidential contenders like Abu Ismail and disagreements over a new constitution, along with suspicions that the military intended to maintain control of Egypt, have marred the run-up to the vote.

Tantawi and his ruling military council have pledged to relinquish power completely by the end of June this year at the latest, which is when a run-off election would be held if no clear winner emerges from the first round in May.

msh, slk /mz (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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