Egyptian soldiers clashed with hundreds of rock-throwing protesters in central Cairo for a second consecutive day today, in a resurgence of turmoil just days after millions voted in parliamentary elections.
The clashes underlined simmering tensions between activists and security officers and threatened to ignite a new round of violence after two peaceful days of voting in balloting considered the freest and fairest in the country's modern history.
Hundreds of protesters threw stones today at security forces who have sealed off the streets around the country's parliament building with barbed wire. Soldiers on rooftops pelted the crowds below with stones, prompting many of the protesters to pick up helmets, satellite dishes or sheets of metal to try to protect themselves.
The violence first began early Friday morning after soldiers stormed an antimilitary protest camp outside the Cabinet building near Tahrir Square, expelling demonstrators demanding an end to military rule and an immediate transfer of power to a civilian authority. At least seven protesters were killed in the violence, activist said. Scores have been injured.
The military took over after longtime President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a popular revolt in February. Rights groups and activists charge that the military is carrying on the practices of the old regime, including arresting and beating dissidents.
Mustafa Ali, a protester who was wounded by pellet shot in clashes last month, today accused the military of instigating the violence to "find a justification to remain in power and divide up people into factions".
The young activists who led the protests against Mubarak have not translated that success into results at the polls, where Islamist parties won a clear majority of seats in the first round of voting last month over the more liberal parties that emerged from the uprising. Results from this week's second round are expected in the coming days, with the rest of the country set to vote next month.
Images of troops protecting polling centres and soldiers carrying the elderly to the polls have served to boost the military's image as guardians of the country. The military remains the ultimate authority on all matters of state in absence of a president.
The second round of voting took place Wednesday and Thursday in nine of the country's 27 provinces. It covered vast rural areas where the religious stand of Islamist parties has strong support.