State television reported that three people were killed in the clashes yesterday that continued through the night on a street lined with government buildings and parliament. Two were shot dead, a health ministry official told AFP. The clashes, which raged since dawn, were the bloodiest since five days of protests in November killed more than 40 people just ahead of the first general election since the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak in February.
One of the dead was Emad Effat, a senior cleric in the government-run Dar al-Ifta, the state's official interpreter of Islamic law, the institution said in a statement published by the official MENA news agency. Dar al-Ifta "considers him a martyr, with God the exalted," the statement said.
Footage posted on Youtube showed the bloodied cleric lying prone on the street before protesters carried him away. The violence erupted at dawn after a protester said he had been arrested by soldiers and beaten up, infuriating his comrades who began throwing stones at the soldiers, witnesses said.
Protesters threw petrol bombs as the clashes continued through the morning with troops and military police repeatedly charging the crowd, AFP correspondents reported.
"The people demand the execution of the field marshal," they chanted in reference to Hussein Tantawi, the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which took over following Mubarak's ouster. Pictures of military policemen grabbing a women by her hair, and another looming over a sobbing elderly lady with his truncheon quickly circulated on the social networking site Twitter, enraging activists.