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Egyptian protesters clash with army

CAIRO -- Thousands of demonstrators barricaded themselves in Cairo's central square with burned-out troop carriers and barbed wire yesterday and demanded the removal of the military council ruling Egypt, infuriated after soldiers stormed their protest camp overnight, killing at least one person and injuring 71 others.

In a sign the confrontation could escalate, the military warned yesterday evening that it will clear Tahrir Square of protesters "with all force and decisiveness" for life to get back to normal.

The warning could presage a repeat of the scene before dawn, when hundreds of soldiers, including a highly trained parachute unit, swarmed into Tahrir Square, firing in the air and beating protesters with clubs and shocking some with electrical batons. Troops dragged away protesters, while others staggered away bleeding from beatings and gunshot wounds. Witnesses reported two killed, though the Health Ministry insisted there was only one death.

"It was like a horror movie," said Mohammed Yehia, an activist and university student from the Nile Delta who was among the protesters.

The confrontation marks a dangerous juncture in Egypt's three months of upheaval.

When longtime president Hosni Mubarak was ousted on Feb. 11 after 18 days of mass demonstrations against his authoritarian rule, protesters hugged and kissed soldiers on tanks in Tahrir Square, praising them for protecting their "revolution." Most welcomed the handover of power to the Armed Forces' Supreme Council, a body of top generals headed by Defense Minister Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi.

In the weeks since, tensions have risen. Protest leaders have been critical of the military council's handling of the post-Mubarak transition and the public has been angered by its failure to prosecute the former president. But both sides also worked to stay on good terms.

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