Dozens injured in clashes during demonstrations in Cairo

Civilians believed to be thugs hurled barrages of stones and firebombs at demonstrators urging Egypt's military rulers to speed reforms.

Egypt Tahrir Square 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Egypt Tahrir Square 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
CAIRO - Dozens of people were injured in Cairo on Saturday when thousands of demonstrators fought opponents with stones after marching to the Defense Ministry to urge their military rulers to speed up reforms, witnesses said.
They said most of the injuries occurred when civilians believed to be thugs hurled barrages of stones and at least six firebombs at demonstrators, who fought back with stones torn up from the pavements.
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Military police, armed with Tasers and batons, fired in the air to stop the demonstrators from approaching the Defense Ministry. A Reuters witness said tear gas fumes were wafting outside the area as military helicopters circled overhead.
An aide to the health minister told state television that 55 people were hurt in the violence, including six who required hospital treatment.
The clashes broke out after the head of the ruling military council, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, promised in a televised speech to push ahead with elections to transform the Arab world's most populous nation into a democracy.
Young protesters were angered by clashes between military police and protesters in a number of cities on Friday, in which up to 10 protesters and four policemen were hurt.
The army denied using force against the demonstrators.
Thousands of protesters marched from Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the Jan. 25 protests that ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, towards the Defense Ministry proclaiming their march to be "peaceful, peaceful".
"The people want to bring down the Field Marshal," they chanted as they headed for the ministry, snarling traffic.
Tantawi, whose military council took over after Mubarak's overthrow in February, was seen leaving the compound before the protesters arrived.
A Reuters witness said more than 15 rounds of gunfire, believed to be blanks, were fired into the air. "They are firing at us, they are firing at their own people," said one of the demonstrators fleeing the area.
It was the 15th day of demonstrations, in Tahrir Square and other squares across the country, to back demands for more freedom for the civilian government, led by Essam Sharaf, an end to military trials and a timetable the completion of reforms.