CAIRO, May 4 Reuters) Egypt's army imposed an overnight curfew around the defence ministry in Cairo on Friday after protesters clashed with troops there during demonstrations against the country's military rulers, leaving one soldier dead and 373 people wounded.
The crowd hurled projectiles and insults at the soldiers sent to defend the ministry after 11 people were killed in fighting there on Wednesday, and called for the overthrow of the head of the ruling army council, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi.
The army fired back water cannon, then teargas, and riot police surged towards the crowd with batons. Scores of wounded protesters were taken away on motorcycles and dozens of soldiers were injured.
"Field Marshal, leave! The people are dangerous!" shouted the crowds. "Raise your voice! Our revolution will not die!"
The street violence comes less than three weeks before an election that represents the first chance for Egyptians to choose their leader freely. A successful vote would mark the most important step in a messy transition to democracy since the overthrow of autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak 15 months ago.
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 chosen are making for a chaotic backdrop to the campaign.
The troops pressed forward when protesters began cutting through barbed wire used to seal off the ministry building in Cairo's central Abbasiya district.
Protesters ripped down a metal fence at an underground railway construction site to build a barricade. Some cried "God is Greatest" as army helicopters swooped overhead.
The teargas scattered the crowd far down the rock-strewn streets. Troops blocked off several streets between Abbasiya and central Cairo using armoured personnel carriers and some fired shots in the air.
An army conscript died from a bullet wound to the stomach, the health ministry said in a statement carried by the state news agency MENA. Injuries suffered by others included teargas inhalation and cuts and bruises, some serious.
"The crowd is coming here with sharp weapons. We have batons and water cannon and teargas to disperse them," said one commander. "Some of them believe if they kill a soldier they will go to heaven. What do you expect us to do?"