CAIRO - Thousands marched to Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday to protest against the exclusion of prominent candidates from Egypt's presidential election, convinced that the country's ruling generals are trying to manipulate the outcome.

The vote offers Egyptians their first chance in five millennia to freely choose their leader and would mark the last step in a messy transition to democracy since the overthrow of autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak 15 months ago.

But last-minute changes to the line-up of contenders, bickering over a new constitution and suspicion that the military will continue wielding power after a new president is sworn in make for a chaotic backdrop to the campaign.

Unidentified assailants fired at protestors camping near the Defense Ministry in Cairo's Abbasiya neighborhood early on Wednesday, starting clashes that killed 11 people and deepening suspicion that figures from the old regime are trying to derail progress towards democracy.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger