Reports say armed men attacked Egyptian protesters outside the Ministry of Defense in Cairo Wednesday.
Eleven people were killed and more than 160 wounded near Egypt's Defense Ministry on Wednesday after armed men assaulted protesters demanding an end to army rule, prompting two Islamist candidates to suspend their presidential election campaigns.
Unidentified "thugs" armed with guns or batons attacked demonstrators who included hundreds of ultraconservative Salafi Islamists protesting at the exclusion of their candidate from this month's vote, state news agency MENA reported.
The violence casts a deep shadow over the presidential election due on May 23 and 24, with a run-off in June, and highlights the fragility of Egypt's transition to democracy, which has been punctuated by violence and political bickering.
Security and medical sources gave a toll of 11 dead and over 160 wounded in the clashes outside the Defense Ministry in central Cairo's Abbasiya district. The fighting raged on unabated through the morning, but subsided in the afternoon.
"Where is the army? Why are they not stopping these people?" cried a bystander as the violence persisted. Shots rang out as young men dashed back and forth across debris-scattered streets, hurling rocks, glass and petrol bombs.
"Down, down with military rule," yelled protesters.
Wounded men were hauled away as others filled bottles with petrol while shots rang out. A Reuters witness saw some combatants carrying guns and one with a sword.
The army sent in extra vehicles and troops, but pledged in a statement not to disperse peaceful demonstrators.