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One killed, more than 300 injured as clashes break out in Egypt

By the CNN Wire Staff
May 5, 2012 -- Updated 0649 GMT (1449 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Death, injuries reported in the Abbasiya area, state media says
  • The military rulers announce an overnight curfew
  • Political parties have urged their supporters to voice outrage over deadly clashes Wednesday
  • Many are concerned about slow transition of power from Egypt's military to civilian rule

Cairo (CNN) -- One person died and more than 300 were injured Friday when clashes broke out in Cairo as protests against the country's military government turned violent, state media reported.

Video from the scene showed some protesters throwing rocks at security forces, and the security forces spraying water cannons at the demonstrators, who were protesting near the country's Defense Ministry.

The protests erupted amid a backdrop of frustration about the pace of reform since Hosni Mubarak was ousted as president last year and over concern that Egypt's military leadership is delaying the transition to civilian rule.

One person was killed and 373 were injured in the clashes in the Abbasiya area, said Ahmed Ansari, director of Cairo's emergency medical services.

Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said a curfew will be enforced in Abbasiya Square and streets leading to it from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

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"Those involved in (the) Abbasiya clashes and inciting them will be dealt with according to the law," the Supreme Council said.

Egypt's state-run Nile TV showed at least two members of the military police suffering injuries and being carried away from the front line of the clashes.

Thousands of people descended on downtown Cairo on Friday after several parties urged supporters to voice their outrage about deadly clashes this week and demand the resignation of Egypt's interim military government.

At least 11 people were killed and scores injured Wednesday in violence in Abbasiya, where a sit-in protest has been going on for a week outside the Defense Ministry.

As the latest clashes gathered steam, Nader Abdel Aziz, a human rights lawyer, reported seeing warning shots fired in the air by security forces, as well as military helicopters hovering over the scene.

Some military officers have been injured by rocks thrown by protesters, he said.

Alaa Al Iraqi, Supreme Council spokesman, said officials warned protesters that the Defense Ministry was "a red line" that shouldn't be crossed.

"They threw rocks first at the military police soldiers, insulted them and pushed through barbed wire," the spokesman said. The rock-throwing injured several soldiers.

"No live ammunition of any kind was used except for standard protocol for dealing with riots," he said.

The Muslim Brotherhood's political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, was among those taking part in another protest in Tahrir Square, the heart of Egypt's protest movement, under the banner of "stopping the bloodshed."

At least three stages had been set up in the square, where a mostly Islamist crowd planned to demonstrate, according to Nile TV. Many are supporters of Islamist candidate Hazem Abu Ismael, who is among a number of candidates disqualified from the May 23 presidential election.

Ahmed Maher, founder of the liberal April 6 movement, which was among those to join the protests in Abbasiya, said it was urging its supporters to pull back.

"We are withdrawing from Abbasiya to avoid and limit bloodshed. Some of our field medics will remain behind to assist only," he said.

The April 6 movement wants accountability from the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces for the deaths of protesters in the Abbasiya clashes Wednesday.

The Ministry of Health earlier dispatched 70 ambulances to the Abbasiya protests, dubbed the "Final Friday" march. And the Arab Doctors Association set up two makeshift clinics.

The Al Nour Salafi party has boycotted the Abbasiya protest.

The Supreme Council said on its Facebook page Thursday that the clashes in Abbasiya were aimed at delaying the presidential elections and stalling the formation of a constituent assembly.

The Supreme Council also said that certain "unnamed" groups have used verses from the Quran calling for jihad, or holy war, to try to draw the military into an armed conflict.

The military had tried to persuade the protesters to move from their position near the Ministry of Defense to Tahrir Square, but they refused, the Facebook statement said.

Controversy about the approaching presidential elections has been growing.

The Muslim Brotherhood's preferred candidate, Khairat El Shater, who was disqualified from running last month, was referred to the country's general prosecutor Friday for insulting the election commission.

Abu Ismael was also referred to the general prosecutor for alleged forgery. He was disqualified from standing because of evidence that his late mother had U.S. citizenship, an assertion he has denied.

On Thursday, three other presidential candidates also were referred for alleged violations of election campaign law.

The three candidates -- leading independent Abdel Monein Aboul Fettouh; Mohamed Mursi of the Islamist Freedom and Justice Party; and Amre Moussa -- were accused of breaking the law by holding meetings on college campuses.

"These infringements by the presidential candidates will be taken very seriously, and they will be questioned as soon as possible. They could be fined," Adel Saeed, the official spokesman for the general prosecutor, told CNN on Thursday.

The election commission has disqualified about 10 of the 23 presidential contenders, its chief has said. The disqualifications have prompted widespread anger.

International powers urged all sides to exercise restraint after the clashes Wednesday.

Assailants targeted the protesters in Cairo early Wednesday, medical sources said. At least 150 people were injured, Dr. Ahmed Thabet, a physician working in a field hospital near where the clashes took place, said Thursday.

It was unclear who the attackers were, but they were not wearing uniforms, witnesses said.

The Freedom and Justice Party blamed the Supreme Council for the deaths and injuries in the Abbasiya clashes, and it said that the council, not the protesters, wants to delay the transition of power.

A government official denied reports that the military was involved in Wednesday's violence.

Clashes have erupted in Egypt since an uprising led to the toppling of Mubarak in February of last year, with protesters demanding the military leaders who took over hand over power to a civilian administration.

Journalist Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and CNN's Amir Ahmed and Saad Abedine contributed to this report.

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