Thousands rallied outside Egypt's defence ministry on Friday demanding the military rulers' ouster on the eve of a planned civil disobedience campaign marking Hosni Mubarak's overthrow a year ago.
During the day, several groups of protesters converged near the ministry building, as the security forces blocked off access with barbed wire and tanks.
Military music blared out from behind the barrier, while the activists chanted slogans such as: "The people want the execution of the Field Marshal" Hussein Tantawi, head of the ruling military council since Mubarak's ouster.
The protesters plan new marches on the ministry on Saturday as a prelude to strikes and sit-ins marking the anniversary.
After the main weekly Muslim prayers earlier on Friday, protesters at the Fateh mosque in central Cairo began chanting, "Down with military rule," before setting off on their march.
"We are marching to the defence ministry, we want to remove the military," said prominent activist Asmaa Mahfuz, who taped an influential video more than a year ago calling on Egyptians to rise against Mubarak.
Young activists such as Mahfuz, whom the military had threatened to put on trial after she attacked the ruling generals in Internet postings, have turned their sights on the army a year after toppling Mubarak in an 18-day uprising.
The military, which promises to hand over power after a president is elected later this year, said it will deploy troops across the country, state media reported.
The threatened civil disobedience campaign has divided the country's political forces, with the Muslim Brotherhood -- the big winner in recent parliamentary elections -- coming out against it.
Students in several universities have called for strikes on Saturday, with secular youth groups who spearheaded the revolt against Mubarak joining in.
Tareq al-Khouly, an organiser of the April 6 youth group, said the plan was for a one-day strike, which could be extended.
In a joint statement on Friday, the groups called on Egyptians "to support these strikes in order to end the unjust rule and build a nation in which justice, freedom and dignity prevail."
The military was initially idolised for not siding with Mubarak during the uprising, but it has since faced growing protests against its continued rule and has several times used deadly force to disperse demonstrations.© ANP/AFP