CAIRO - Thousands of anti-military protesters took to the streets in Cairo and Alexandria on Friday, days after bloody clashes near the defence ministry raised tensions ahead of landmark presidential elections.In the capital, several thousand gathered in Tahrir Square and hundreds were in the Abassiya neighbourhood near the defence ministry, despite stern warnings from the army.Heavy gunfire could be heard as clashes between troops and anti-military protesters spread around the defence ministry in Cairo leaving 59 injured, according to the health ministry.The health ministry said most of the injured had been treated on the spot in the Abbassiya neighbourhood, where military police had used tear gas and water cannon under a volley of rocks hurled from both sides.“During the clashes in Abbassiya, 59 people were injured... of those five are being treated in hospital,” said health ministry official Ahmed Al-Ansary in a statement.Protesters and military police faced off in Abbassiya separated by barbed wire, before troops charged the protesters and began chasing them down the roads leading off the main square. Heavy gunfire could be heard, an AFP reporter said.A security official told AFP that the army had fired warning shots in the air in a bid to disperse the protesters.A military source said that the army had chased down the protesters “with the help of Abbassiya residents and police forces”, arresting 40 people he described as “thugs.” Others carrying posters of demonstrators who died during last year’s uprising against president Hosni Mubarak made their way to Abbassiya, where army troops were stationed along barbed wire fences. Friday’s protest comes just three weeks before the country’s first post-revolt presidential election, after which the ruling military is to hand power to civilian rule. But protesters say they fear the elections will be rigged in favour of a pro-military candidate. Others say they do not trust the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to fully hand power to civilian rule. “We are here to end SCAF rule. We don’t trust them. SCAF is following Mubarak’s example, and we want to protect the revolution,” said Mohammed Badawi, a member of the Coalition of Revolution Youth, who came from the canal city of Ismailiya.Another protester from the Nile Delta city of Mansura, Ahmed Gamal, said he feared the upcoming elections will be “forged.” “After the revolution, there should be an election committee with integrity. Instead they brought a corrupt one,” the 22-year-old told AFP.The protest comes two days after deadly clashes in the Abbassiya neighbourhood which left at least nine people dead according to the health ministry, though field medics say more died. On Wednesday, unknown attackers stormed a sit-in near the defence ministry by supporters of Salafist politician Hazem Abu Ismail, who was recently disqualified from the presidential race. In Abbassiya, protester Mohammed Eid unbuttons his shirt to reveal a pro-Abu Ismail T-shirt. “I’m not showing the T-shirt because it’s not about Abu Ismail anymore,” Eid told AFP. “Now it’s become about ending military rule and protecting the revolution that is not finished,” he said.Around 2,000 protesters gathered in central Alexandria, according to AFP photographerOn Thursday, SCAF, which took power when Mubarak was ousted, vowed that this month’s presidential election will be fair and moved to assure the public it will hand over power on schedule but it also warned against any threat to the defence ministry. “We are committed to fair elections 100 percent. We don’t have any candidates. All the candidates are respectable Egyptians,” said council member Major General Mohammed al-Assar.“The responsibility, the duty, the law and the right to self-defence, as well as the honour of the military obligates members of the armed forces to defend the defence ministry and its military installations because they are a symbol of military honour and the prestige of the nation,” said General Mokhtar al-Mulla, another council member.“If anyone approaches its (installations), they should hold themselves responsible,” he warned.Protests have been held regularly on Fridays as the fast-paced developments of the pre-election phase take twists and turns prompting protest and debate.The presidential election is scheduled for May 23 and 24 and a run off for June 16 and 17 if there is no outright winner in the first round.The military vowed it would hand over power to civilian rule before the end of June, or by May if there is a clear winner in the first round of presidential elections.Meanwhile, the army announced an overnight curfew in the area surrounding the defence ministry in central Cairo, after fierce clashes between troops and anti-military protesters.“A curfew has been imposed in Abbassiya square, around the defence ministry and the surrounding streets,” said General Mukhtar al-Mulla, a member of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, in a televised address.