At least one person was killed and 30 others wounded when assailants used fire bombs and rocks to attack demonstrators who had gathered outside Cairo's defence ministry to call for an end to military rule, security officials said yesterday.
The clashes broke out late on Saturday when the unidentified assailants set upon the protesters, also hurling fireworks and empty glass bottles. Neither army troops nor police attempted to stop the three-hour battle, witnesses said. They also reported hearing gunshots.
The officials said the dead protester was a supporter of ultraconservative politician Hazem Salah Abu Ismail. Many of those outside the ministry were Abu Ismail supporters angered by his disqualification from running in next month's presidential election. He was thrown out of the race because officials ruled his late mother had dual Egyptian-US citizenship in violation of eligibility rules.
Demonstrations in Egypt have frequently been attacked by unidentified assailants, particularly protests which are near or outside the defence ministry.
Rights and pro-democracy activists have blamed the attacks on undercover police, petty criminals on the police payroll, plainclothes army soldiers or supporters of the ousted regime of authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak for the attacks.
Mubarak-era generals took over the reins of power when their patron stepped down 14 months ago in the face of a popular uprising. Opposition to their rule has built up over the past year after they were blamed for killing protesters, jailing critics of their rule and putting at least 10,000 civilians on trial before military tribunals.