CAIRO -- Egypt plunged deeper into political crisis just eight days before elections, as security forces attacked protesters and torched their tents yesterday in unrest that appears headed toward a second uprising, this time against Egypt's military rulers.
Thousands of young Egyptians battled security forces for a second day in the streets surrounding Tahrir Square, the nerve center of the revolt that brought down President Hosni Mubarak and left the military in charge.
Clashes and civil disobedience continued in Alexandria, Suez and other big cities as protesters expressed their solidarity with those in the capital.
By nightfall, three people were dead, hundreds were wounded, fires burned in the square, and Egyptians worried that the violence would force a delay in parliamentary elections and leave the ruling military council in power even longer.
Caretaker Prime Minister Essam Sharaf and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces met for crisis talks, but one senior general said there would be no delay of elections, set to begin Nov. 28.
"We won't accept any calls to postpone elections and we affirm that the armed forces and the police are capable of securing the process and leading Egypt through this ditch we're stuck in," Gen. Mohsen el Fangary said on Haya, an Egyptian cable channel.
"If everything moves forward in a proper manner, and without the chaos and division in the political street, the armed forces will be back to their barracks before 2012."
The caretaker cabinet issued a statement reiterating its commitment to holding elections on time, even as one of its members, Culture Minister Emad Abu Ghazi, resigned in protest of the military's tactics.
Protesters were furious the cabinet announced its support of the interior ministry, which oversees the riot police, the main force battling protesters.
At dusk yesterday, military police stormed into the square and cleared it within minutes, beating protesters and destroying their tents.
The operation was broadcast live on television. Then the forces pulled back, and the protesters returned.
A handful of political groups suspended their election campaigns in solidarity with the demonstrators.
Egypt's influential Islamists -- the Muslim Brotherhood and some of the more rigid Salafis -- allowed their members to join the battles, but didn't issue a formal call to do so, which many activists interpreted as an attempt to play both sides.
The Islamists can say they had a presence in the square, but their politicians will focus on campaigning and not alienating the many voters who disapprove of the continued demonstrations.