Egypt's worst violence in months has escalated the confrontation between political forces and the ruling military ahead of a landmark presidential election, as suspected army supporters attacked mainly Islamist protesters outside the Defense Ministry, sparking clashes that left at least 11 people dead.
Political parties swiftly blamed the ruling generals for the bloodshed and vowed the election must go ahead as planned to ensure the military's removal from power.
Egypt has been plagued by sporadic bouts of deadly violence since the ouster of longtime authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak last year, but Wednesday's killings took on added significance, coming just three weeks ahead of the presidential election.
The killings also provided opponents of the military with more evidence the generals who took over from Mubarak are badly bungling the shift to democratic rule and acting much like their former mentor.
"We blame the military council for the bloodshed," Islamist lawmaker Osama Yassin of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party told state television.
Around 1,000 protesters have been camped outside the Defense Ministry for days demanding an end to military rule.