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Egyptian troops clash with protesters camping out in central Cairo's Tahrir Square
CAIRO (AP) ' Egyptian troops clashed Monday with a small group of protesters camping out in Cairo's Tahrir Square to press demands for faster change and justice for demonstrators killed in the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.
The clashes broke out after troops dismantled the protesters' tents on the square's median, witnesses said. There were no immediate reports of casualties or arrests. Troops backed by armored vehicles and hundreds of riot police used clubs to clear the square after protesters ignored pleas over loudspeakers to leave. Military police fired shots in the air and protesters hurled rocks.
The operation brought an end to nearly a month of renewed daily protests in the central square that was the birthplace of the 18-day uprising that overthrew Mubarak in February.
Several hundred demonstrators had rebuilt the round-the-clock protest camp there on July 8 to renew the pressure on Egypt's transitional military rulers to swiftly bring Mubarak and other members of his regime to trial.
After the army's clearing operation, vehicle traffic instantly returned to the busy interchange in the heart of downtown for the first time in weeks.
Egypt's activists, many of whom are suspicious of the ruling military council's pledges to bring genuine reforms, are demanding Mubarak loyalists be weeded out from key state institutions like the judiciary, police and civil service.
Mubarak's trial on charges he ordered the killing of protesters in the crackdown earlier this year is scheduled to start in Cairo on Wednesday. Seeing him and other members of his regime brought to public trial is a key demand of the protesters.
Monday's clashes came after a small group of protesters decided to continue the sit-in at Tahrir Square even though most groups decided to end it to mark the start this week of the holy month of Ramadan, when devout Muslims refrain from food, drink, smoking and sex from dawn to dusk.
After the confrontations, the square's median was covered with the personal belongings of the protesters and the tents' torn canvass.
Many of those who had remained at the square were relatives of some of the 850 protesters killed during the uprising.
The relatives and other protesters wanted to continue with the sit-in until Mubarak appears in the first hearing of his trial on Wednesday. Others wanted to stay at the square until all other demands are met.
Mubarak, his security chief and six top police officers could face the death sentence if convicted of ordering the use of lethal force against the protesters.