At least seven people have died during polling place clashes after police blocked voters from casting ballots, using tear gas and rubber bullets in a day of sweeping violence.

Most of the clashes were reported in Muslim Brotherhood strongholds in the Nile Delta, north of Cairo.

While police confirmed the seven shooting deaths, Interior Ministry officials blamed the violence on supporters of the banned Brotherhood, which has made sweeping gains in the elections, which concluded with the latest run-off.

Magdi Mohammed Hassan el-Bahrawi and Tamer Kheder el Qammash died of gunshot wounds in the Matariya hospital in Dakahliya province in the Nile Delta, according to a hospital doctor and a local police official.

Mohammed Ahmed Mahdi, died at Zagazig University Hospital after being shot in the head, the police official said.

Earlier today, Shaaban Abdu Ahmed Abu Arbaa and Al-Said Hassan el-Dighidi died of gunshot wounds in the northern down of Damietta, where police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at crowds outside polling stations, said Dr Mohammed Balboula of Damietta Public Hospital.

Fourteen-year-old Mohammed Karam el-Taher was killed when police fired at the demonstrators in the Qattawiya, a Nile Delta village in el-Sharqiya province near Zagazig, according to a Brotherhood member and a police official.

A seventh Egyptian was killed in clashes in the Dakahliya governorate further north.

Main opposition

The Muslim Brotherhood became a major opposition force after securing 76 seats in the first two phases but charged the regime of President Hosni Mubarak was using violence and fraud to curb its gains in the final stage.

In the small town of Al-Aziziya near Zagazig, young voters who had been denied access to polling stations started pelting their opponents with stones, triggering a charge by a 50-strong force of policemen.

“The police are attacking us again, they don’t want to let us vote. I was also unable to vote last week,” said Abdelsattar al-Mallah, his face covered in blood.

The US State Department voiced its concern on Tuesday over the electoral abuses, charging that they sent “the wrong signal about Egypt’s commitment to democracy and freedom.”

Furious would-be voters confronted police and ruling party thugs armed with truncheons and machetes, as violence spread across most of the final phase’s nine governorates.

Security forces confiscated ladders that more peaceful voters had used last week to enter sealed off polling stations, but many determined Islamist sympathisers staged sit-ins to vent their anger.

The Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights reported that hundreds of polling stations had been closed nearly all day.