For the third time in a week, deadly clashes erupted near Egypt’s Defense Ministry when military policemen fired tear gas and water cannons and threw rocks to disperse tens of thousands of protesters, in a sign of growing tensions as the country nears the end of a turbulent 15-month political transition.
The latest bloodshed, which left at least two people dead and hundreds injured, started after thousands of protesters marched peacefully to the ministry, defying a warning by the ruling military council not to approach the building. The fighting started quickly, seesawed near a front line for hours, and then spread, in skirmishes that left bloodstains on the sidewalks of the surrounding neighborhood.
About 5 p.m., backed by reinforcements in armored vehicles — and armed residents — the army had scattered the throngs of protesters and set up barbed wire checkpoints as the military announced a curfew from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.
The clashes came a day after the generals who took power after President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster delivered an impassioned defense of their rule, asserting their authority during the transition in a televised news conference, as well as their determination to hand over power after presidential elections that begin later this month.
The violence this week reflected protesters’ doubts about the military’s intentions and anger at the generals over bloody episodes that have occurred during the transition. And it laid bare a current of anxiety that is tempering excitement about the elections, as interest groups fight for influence and resentments come to the fore.
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