Army intervenes as at least nine people are killed during protest against military rulers outside Ministry of Defence.
"At least nine protesters have been killed by armed attackers near the Ministry of Defence in Cairo, Egyptian officials have said.
The unidentified assailants at dawn on Wednesday set upon several hundred protesters who have camped out in the Abbasiya area for days to call for an end to military rule in Egypt.
In response to the clashes, military and riot vehicles were deployed to the area later on Wednesday to quell the violence.
"Eight armoured personnel carriers from the military central zone entered the Abassiya area to disperse the fighting between protesters, and not to disperse the peaceful demonstrators," an army statement said. "However, protesters attacked the armed forces. The armed forces have orders to hold their ground."
Egypt's health ministry said dozens of people had been wounded in the dawn fighting with sticks, stones, batons and bullets. Low-level clashes continued hours after the initial attack.
The state news agency MENA said "thugs", some of them with guns, had assaulted the protesters.
The violence casts a shadow over the presidential election due to begin 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.
"This has been an ongoing sit-in for the past five days," Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh reported from central Cairo, saying that the latest skirmishes began early on Wednesday morning in the neighbourhood near the Abbasiya subway station......"