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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 December 2005, 22:00 GMT
Egypt poll clashes leave six dead
Egyptian policemen fire teargas during clashes with voters as they block the access to a voting station
Police blocked polling stations early in the day
Egyptian police have shot dead six people during protests by Islamists barred from voting during the final stage of the parliamentary election.

Live rounds were fired along with tear gas and rubber bullets as police struggled to keep Muslim Brotherhood supporters reaching polling stations.

The banned party, whose candidates stood as independents, has made large gains, winning nearly 20% of seats.

Nine people have now died since the election began on 9 November.

Islamists say police tactics are designed to limit their gains and help the ruling National Democratic Party.

Egypt's oldest and largest Islamist organisation
Founded by Hasan al-Banna in 1928
Group has influenced Islamist movements worldwide
Mixes political activism with charity work
Banned from open political activity
Rejects the use of violence and supports democratic principles
Wants to create a state governed by Islamic law
Slogan: "Islam is the Solution"

The US has criticised the conduct of the poll, saying it sends the wrong signal about Egypt's commitment to reform.

The BBC's Heba Saleh reports from Cairo that the same government which broadcast television ads encouraging Egyptians to go to the polls, chased them away when they turned up to vote.

Local newspapers, she adds, have run countless pictures of thugs hired by the ruling party brandishing knives and sticks to intimidate opposition supporters.

Brotherhood supporters fought riot police with stones and petrol bombs.

According to hospital and anonymous police sources, scores of people were also injured in the clashes which centred on provincial towns:

  • At least two people died in the northern town of Damietta

  • In the Nile Delta town of Zagazig, government supporters armed with knives and machetes reportedly attacked voters outside several polling stations; a 14-year-old boy and a 22-year-old man were killed in violence in the nearby village of Qattawiya

  • Two men were shot dead in Dakahliya Province, also in the Nile Delta

  • Some 600 people were wounded in violence in Cairo and there were 80 arrests.

'Nobody enters'

Interior ministry spokesman Ibrahim Hammad said that Brotherhood "thugs" had caused disturbances at 10 polling stations.

A bleeding Egyptian supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood holds his head after he was injured during clashes with the police in al-Mansoura
Numerous voters were wounded in violent confrontations

In Zagazig, an AP correspondent witnessed a confrontation between local Brotherhood candidate Mohammed al-Mursi and police outside a polling station.

"What are you afraid of? Why aren't you letting them inside?" he shouted at police barring hundreds of people from the station in Nasiriyah district.

A judge who arrived to supervise polling protested at the blockade and was allowed in along with a few women.

When a group of about 25 women tried to push through in turn, they were stopped by the police while their commander shouted "Nobody is entering here".

Difficult choice

According to the Brotherhood, at least 1,400 of its members were arrested before Wednesday's polls, many of them campaign workers.

Brotherhood-backed independents have already won about 76 seats, five times as many as in the previous parliament. Run-offs were held for 127 districts.

In the short term, President Hosni Mubarak's ruling NDP will control parliament but its future dominance could now be in question, our correspondent says.

The Brotherhood's unexpected gains will make it difficult for the government to continue to deny the group legal recognition.

And analysts say the situation leaves Egyptians with a difficult choice between autocracy and Islamism.

See the mayhem on the streets

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