But witnesses said the clashes started after military police seized a protester outside the building and beat him severely. Images posted online showed a man, identified as Aboudi Ibrahim, being carried away by fellow protesters, his face bruised and his eyes swollen shut. A doctor at Qasr el-Aini hospital said Ibrahim died while being treated, which would bring the death toll to three.
Military police tried to disperse the crowd, burning tents where protesters had been encamped for three weeks in a bid to stop the caretaker government from convening, witnesses said. Soldiers atop nearby government buildings threw rocks and glass at the crowd below, according to witnesses and video footage.
By late Friday morning, military police in riot gear had rushed Qasr el-Aini Street, beating protesters with truncheons. A young woman, Ghada Kamal, 28, tried to stop them from hitting a fellow protester and was beaten to the ground by several military police officers, who then detained her. At least six women were among the scores of protesters who were detained and later released, many bleeding and reeling from what they said were shocks from cattle prods.
Also among the dead was Sheik Emad Effat, a cleric from al-Azhar, Egypt’s preeminent religious institution, MENA reported.
Noor Ayman Nour, an activist and son of former presidential candidate Ayman Nour, limped through the rock-strewn street after being released Friday. A welt bled on his forehead.
“The military police were running after us and a girl tripped and I went to help her and they started to beat me,” he said.
Outside the cabinet building, families begged the military through the locked gates to release their relatives.
“The people want the execution of the field marshal,” protesters chanted, referring to Egypt’s top general, Mohammed Hussein Tantawi.
Nearby, young men siphoned gas from cars to make small firebombs.
Mohamed ElBaradei, a favored presidential candidate among youthful protesters, wrote on his Facebook page, “Even if the sit-in was not legal, should it be dispersed with such brutality and barbarity?”
Special correspondent Ingy Hassieb contributed to this report.