CAIRO - At least eight people were killed and 303 wounded in Cairo as clashes renewed between protesters and security forces outside Egypt's cabinet building in the worst violence in weeks.
"The people demand the execution of the field marshal," protesters chanted in reference to Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported.
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.
Since dawn, security officers and protesters were seen hurling stones at each other, according to state TV footage and videos and photos posted by protesters on social networking sites.
Protesters threw fire bombs and rocks at the security officers, setting fire to part of the parliament building and chanting "Down with the military".
Following hours of violence, state television reported on Saturday, December 17, that eight people were killed and 303 injured in the clashes that continued through the night on a street lined with government buildings and parliament.
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.
The ruling military council blamed the protesters for the violence, in a statement published by the official MENA news agency.
It denied that soldiers tried to disperse the sit-in, saying the protesters had fired birdshot and thrown petrol bombs.
The council "affirms that the security personnel are exercising the utmost self restraint, and they did not assault protesters," the statement said.
In a gesture apparently aimed at mollifying the protesters, Tantawi ordered the treatment of all civilians wounded at military hospitals, which are usually better equipped than civilian counterparts, state television reported.
The latest violence was condemned by Islamist and liberal politicians who decried the army's tactics in confronting protesters.
"Even if the sit-in was illegal, should it be dispersed in such a savage and brutal way, which in itself is a bigger violation of all laws and humanity," Mohamed ElBaradei, the former UN nuclear watchdog chief turned dissident and presidential candidate, said on his Twitter account.
The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, which has dominated the parliamentary election so far, condemned "the assault on protesters and the attempt to disperse them."
The clashes were the bloodiest since five days of protests in November killed 42 people just ahead of the first general election since the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak in February.
Following November's clashes, council Field Marshal Tantawi, the head of the ruling military, pledged to hold a presidential vote in June that could pave the way for a transfer to civilian rule.
Yet, yesterday's clashes were seen as a trial by the military council to delay the transfer of power.
"The council wants to spoil the elections, Shadi Fawzy, a pro-democracy activist, told Reuters.
They don't want a parliament that has popular legitimacy, unlike them, and would challenge their authority," he added.
"I don't believe they will hand over power in June."