Campaigning for Egypt’s first post-uprising presidential poll was temporarily on hold after thugs attacked an anti-military protest near the defence ministry in Cairo, leaving 20 people dead.
Four presidential candidates announced they were temporarily suspending their campaigns over the killings.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Mursi told reporters he decided to stop campaigning for 48 hours “in solidarity with theprotesters.” The SCAF, as the ruling authority, was “the first to be responsible,” he said.
His main Islamist rival, Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, cancelled all activity for the day, his camp told AFP, while leftist candidates Khaled Ali and Hamdeen Sabbahi also announced they were suspending their campaigns.
In a bid to placate the protesters against military rule, the rulingSupreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) said it was ready to hand power to civilian rule on May 24 if a candidate wins the first round of the election.
The army had said previously it would hand over at the end of June.
The dawn assault sparked fierce clashes between the unidentified attackers and the protesters, who have been camping out to demand an end to military rule, with both sides hurling petrol bombs and rocks, the official said.
The army deployed troops in central Cairo to quell the clashes, a military source told AFP.
A doctor at a field hospital said 20 people were killed and dozens wounded.
Amr Mussa, a former Arab League chief and now a frontrunner in the race, said Wednesday’s violence was “proof of the need to put an end to the transitional period according to the timetable, without delay.”
The military chief of staff, Sami Enan, said the army may transfer power to an elected president on May 24 if the vote is decided in the first round.
The presidential election is scheduled for May 23 and 24, and a possible run off for June 16 and 17.
The United States said it wants Egypt’s interim military rulers to investigate the deadly clashes.
“We want to see an immediate end to this violence,” said State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner.
“We want to see the government of Egypt investigate these events and hold those responsible for the violence accountable. We obviously support the rights of all individuals to peacefully protest.”
After clashes subsided in the afternoon, hundreds of protesters set off from Fath mosque in central Cairo towards Abbassiya, chanting “martyrs, in the millions, we are heading to the council.”
“Down with military rule! The people want the ouster of the field marshal!” they chanted in reference to Hussein Tantawi who heads the ruling military council.
In Abbassiya, hundreds more joined the protests, including presidential candidate Abul Fotouh.
Leading dissident Mohamed ElBaradei, the former UN nuclear watchdog chief, denounced what he termed the “massacre” outside the defence ministry.
“SCAF & Government unable to protect civilians or in cahoots with thugs. Egypt going down the drain,” he posted on Twitter.
The targeted protesters, supporters of Salafist politician Hazem Abu Ismail, have been camped out since Saturday after the electoral commission barred the popular hardline Islamist from contesting the election.
“The army’s intervention has come hours too late,” said Amnesty International’s Philip Luther, director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“There appears to be no will within Egypt’s ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to prevent these tragic events. After the weekend attack, the authorities should have been prepared for the violence.”
On Sunday, one person was killed and 119 were injured in earlier clashes between Abu Ismail supporters and residents of Abbassiya.
Protests since the popular uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak last year have often turned violent, with thugs associated to the previous regime frequently blamed.
The electoral commission on April 14 barred 10 candidates, including the Brotherhood’s Khairat El-Shater and the former president’s intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, from standing in the poll to choose Mubarak’s successor.
Abu Ismail’s nomination was rejected because his mother had taken joint US citizenship, but many of his supporters believe he was the victim of a “plot” by the authorities.
‘That is ridiculous’: Andrew Gillum obliterates Santorum for claiming guns aren’t ‘problem’ in mass shootings
CNN contributor Andrew Gillum called conservative pundit Rick Santorum "ridiculous" on Sunday for suggesting that guns are not the problem in mass shootings.
During a CNN discussion on gun control, Santorum criticized calls from Democratic candidates for the government to buy back assault-style weapons in addition to banning them.
"The truth is something has to give," Gillum said. "The stranglehold that the NRA seems to have over Congress, over Washington, D.C., in my opinion, is insane. How can we put the priorities of one interest group above the safety, the security of the American people?"
CNN’s Jake Tapper confronts Trump adviser Navarro with long list of experts calling him a disaster
In a highly contentious interview on CNN's "State of the Union", host Jake Tapper confronted Donald Trump's top economic adviser, Peter Navarro, with a seemingly endless list of economists, analysts and business publications who believe he and his economic advice have both been a disaster and that he is not being straight with the public.
After refusing multiple times to concede that President Donald Trump's trade war -- and accompanying tariffs -- are having any effect on an economy that many financial prognosticators believe is headed towards a recession, Tapper confronted the White House adviser with the list of his critics -- including the Wall Street Journal.
Internet goes wild over ‘obviously drunk’ Larry Kudlow on Fox News: ‘He’s lying while slurring his words’
Speculation was rampant on Sunday that White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow was drunk on Fox News.
"There is no economic recession in sight," Kudlow insisted to Fox News Sunday host Dana Perino.
Twitter, however, was buzzing about Kudlow's speech patterns instead of his questionable economic optimism.
"Pretty sure Larry Kudlow is drunk on my TV right now... And he is lying while slurring his words," one Twitter user noted.
"Kudlow is on fox news Sunday right now and from my 30 yrs of tending bar, I gotta say this guy appears drunk," another user observed.