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Calm Returns to Cairo Following Deadly Clashes

Egyptian Army soldiers clear away scrap metal used by protesters during clashes outside the Ministry of Defense in Cairo, Egypt, May 5, 2012.
Egyptian Army soldiers clear away scrap metal used by protesters during clashes outside the Ministry of Defense in Cairo, Egypt, May 5, 2012.

Calm returned to Cairo on Saturday after Egypt's military rulers imposed an overnight curfew following clashes Friday that left a soldier dead and about 300 people injured.

On Friday, troops clashed with protesters demanding an immediate end to military rule, just three weeks before Egypt's landmark presidential election.

Soldiers fired tear gas and water cannons at thousands of demonstrators who massed near the Defense Ministry in Cairo's Abbassiya district.   More clashes erupted in the city late Friday.

Islamist protesters had been camping around the Defense Ministry for days. More than 300 people were arrested.

The violence took place two days after fighting in Cairo left at least 11 people dead and prompted the top two Islamist candidates for the presidency to suspend their campaigns.

Egypt's presidential election is scheduled for May 23 and 24.  The military rulers have vowed the elections will be fair.

The election will be the first since a popular uprising ousted longtime autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak more than a year ago.

The military council that took over from Mubarak has promised a democratic transition and transfer of power to an elected president by July 1.  But Egypt's generals have faced strong domestic criticism for their handling of that process, which has been plagued by periodic eruptions of deadly violence, often surrounding anti-government protests in major cities.

Islamists are angered by the ruling military's decision to bar ultraconservative Islamist cleric Hazem Abu Ismail from standing in the presidential contest.  Egypt's election commission disqualified Abu Ismail because his mother had taken joint U.S. citizenship.

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