- Associated Press - Sunday, December 18, 2011

CAIRO (AP) — Troops and protesters clashed Sunday in Cairo for the third straight day, pelting one another with rocks in skirmishes near parliament in the heart of the Egyptian capital.

At least 10 protesters have been killed and 441 others wounded in the three days of violence, according to the Health Ministry. Activists say most of the 10 fatalities died of gunshot wounds.

Though the latest flare-up in violence involves a relatively small number of protesters, the clashes have added to the political tensions, with the pro-democracy activists behind the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak’s autocratic regime 10 months ago accusing the generals of mismanaging the transition period and large-scale human rights abuses.

Sunday’s renewed violence also was taking place as unofficial results from a second round of voting in parliamentary elections showed Islamist parties, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, continuing their dominance at the polls.

The third and final round of voting is slated for next month in nine of Egypt’s 27 provinces.

The Islamists have been staying clear of the recent violence, fearing that they could jeopardize their electoral gains by taking part in the protests. Their stance has prompted many activists to accuse them of political opportunism.

The clashes began early Friday when one of several hundred peaceful protesters staging a sit-in outside the Cabinet offices near parliament was detained and beaten by troops. The protesters began their sit-in three weeks ago to demand that the nation’s ruling military, which took over after Mr. Mubarak’s ouster by a popular uprising in February, immediately step down and hand over power to a civilian administration.

Sunday’s clashes were taking place on a street close to Tahrir Square, birthplace of the 18-day uprising that toppled Mr. Mubarak. The street, Sheik Rehan, is home to a campus of the American University in Cairo as well as a research center set up during the three-year occupation of Egypt by France in the late 18th century. The building was almost completely gutted by a fire that broke out during the height of the clashes on Saturday.

Protesters, who blame the fire on the troops, have been trying to salvage valuable books and documents from the center, whose two-story building is now in danger of collapsing.

Troops on Sunday erected a barrier to separate them from the protesters on Sheik Rehan Street, but the two sides continued to hurl rocks at each other. Nearby streets have been sealed off by the army, and some parts of the area were almost completely covered by debris, soot and rocks.

Troops have used the roofs of nearby state buildings to hurl rocks on the protesters Friday and Saturday.

The military has used a heavy hand in a bid to crush the most recent spasm of violence, according to video footage broadcast on regional TV stations and posted on social network sites. Soldiers have dragged female protesters by the hair, stripping at least one of her clothes, and kicked and beaten with batons other protesters who have been knocked to the ground. One widely circulating footage shows an army officer running toward protesters while firing a pistol at them. It is not clear from the footage whether he was using live ammunition.

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