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Egyptian unrest draws in military

| Monday, March 4, 2013, 9:54 p.m.

CAIRO — Clashes between protesters and the police in the restive Egyptian city of Port Said that entered their second day on Monday have dragged in the military to a dramatic extent into the nation's turmoil.

At times in the violence, frictions have arisen between the police who were battling protesters and army forces that tried to break up the fighting. Troops in between the two sides were overwhelmed by police tear gas, one army colonel was wounded by live fire and troops even opened fire over the heads of police, bringing cheers from protesters.

Three policemen and three civilians were killed in the fighting, and troops stood by as protesters torched a government complex that contains the city's main police building.

The scenes, after three weeks of strikes and protests in the city, have underlined a scenario that many in Egypt view with a mix of concern and relief — that the military may move back into politics, prompted by mushrooming protests, a breakdown in law and order and mounting challenges to the Islamist President Mohamed Morsy. Some opponents of Morsy have outright called for the military to take power, and even those who say they oppose a military return have used the prospect to pressure Morsy to find some consensus in the country's political crisis.

Prominent opposition leader Mohammed ElBaradei warned of decaying state institutions and rising levels of violence.

“The regime in its current form is unable to manage the country,” he wrote on his Twitter account. “There must be a radical review before it is too late.”

Unable to halt the violence, the police and military on Monday sought to deny any tensions between them. Meanwhile, there was no official comment from the presidency after one of the worst flare-ups of violence since January.

Unrest spread in other parts of the country. In the capital, Cairo, protesters blocked the main thoroughfare along the Nile River, and police tried to clear them with volleys of tear gas.

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