CAIRO — Protesters took to the streets on Friday for nationwide rallies against the ruling military council’s handling of post-Mubarak Egypt, in a call that has exposed political rifts.

In Cairo, tens of thousands of protesters packed into Tahrir Square — the symbolic heart of protests that toppled Hosni Mubarak in February — for the Muslim weekly prayers.

Demonstrations were also held in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, the canal cities of Ismailiya and Suez, and in the Sinai peninsula.

Hundreds protested outside the hospital where ousted president Hosni Mubarak is being held in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, demanding his transfer to prison, an AFP reporter said.

Mubarak is currently in custody in hospital as the authorities mull his transfer to prison amid health concerns.

In Tahrir Square, the protest dubbed “day of anger” took on a festive mood, with protesters singing, chanting and taking the light rain as a good omen, demonstrators told AFP.

But the absence of Islamist groups was noticeable, with some protesters saying they felt betrayed by the Muslim Brotherhood’s decision to stay away from the rallies.

“Where are the Brotherhood? This is Tahrir,” chanted the protesters.

“During the revolt, we were all here together, left wing, liberals, Islamists and secularists. But now that the Brotherhood are recognised, they are not joining the protests anymore,” said Dina Ahmed, a protester.

The Brotherhood, the country’s best organised opposition movement which was banned under the Mubarak regime, said it was “very concerned” by the protest.

In a statement, it asked “who are the people angry with now?”

After Mubarak’s ouster, the call to protest can “only mean that the anger is directed at the people themselves or at the army,” said the Islamist group, urging protesters not to drive a wedge between the people and the military.

Youth groups that helped to launch the uprising posts calls on Facebook urging Egyptians to take to the streets on Friday to rally for “an end to political corruption.”

Three months after the revolt, they are frustrated by the slow pace of democratic change, and are this time directing their anger at the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

While the revolt achieved its aim of ousting Mubarak, the unelected military retains absolute power in Egypt.

Protesters want a civilian government, a new constitution, the acceleration of trials of former regime figures and their removal from top jobs in the police, universities and other public institutions.

They are also calling for a return of security forces to the streets, amid weeks of insecurity and sectarian clashes blamed on remnants of the old regime.

“I am against military trials of civilians, and the Supreme Council issues laws and then holds national talks, rather than consulting with people first,” said Rahma Hassan, 18.

“There has to be a serious national dialogue, not one including people we revolted against,” she said.

Activists say the military council only agreed to put Mubarak and his sons on trial after intense street pressure, arguing that the momentum must be kept up for a transition to full democracy.

“The prevalence of the law is the most important thing, and we need a new constitution before elections,” said Randa Gohar, 33, in Tahrir Square.

“I want a presidential council. The military council is not doing anything,” said another protester, Muhannad Galal, 27.

He cast doubt on the ability of military council chief Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi — Mubarak’s long-time defence minister — and military chief of staff Sami Enan to pave the way for reforms.

“Tantawi and Enan were with Mubarak for two decades, we are the ones who removed him, not them,” Galal said.

The military said in a statement on Thursday that it will steer clear of protests in an effort to avert any unrest.

It warned in a statement on its Facebook page of “suspicious elements who will try to pit the military against the people,” and said it “decided to have completely no presence in areas of protests to avert these dangers.”

But many activists read the statement as a sign that the army would turn a blind eye to any confrontations between protesters and old regime remnants, blamed for post-revolution clashes and sectarian violence.