Saturday January 26, 2013
Tension simmers after Egypt hit by deadly violence
CAIRO: Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Morsi appealed for calm early on Saturday after at least seven people were killed in violence on the second anniversary of the revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak.
Tensions were further heightened ahead of the trial verdict in the country's worst football disaster, with fans threatening violence if justice is not served.
The key trial verdict comes after troops were deployed in the canal city of Suez following deadly clashes between police and protesters that marred the second anniversary of the uprising that forced strongman Mubarak to quit in 2011.
The unrest underscores deep divisions in the Arab world's most populous nation.
The protesters' anger was directed at Morsi whom they accused of failing the revolution that brought him to the presidency and granted his powerful Muslim Brotherhood increasing control over state institutions.
Egypt is also in the throes of an economic crisis as foreign investment and tourism revenues dwindle, the Egyptian pound stands at its lowest level against the dollar and a budget deficit shows no sign of recovery.
Dozens of defendants are also on trial in Cairo over the stadium deaths of 74 people in Port Said last year after a match between home side Al-Masry and the capital's Al-Ahly.
Diehard Al-Ahly supporters known as Ultras were among the most vocal and active members of the opposition in the anti-Mubarak revolution. Hundreds of the club's fans gathered outside Al-Ahly headquarters in the capital on Saturday, carrying flags bearing pictures of those who died in the football violence.
Friday's clashes left at least seven people dead and 456 injured. The interior ministry said 95 police officers were hurt.
Morsi appealed for calm and said authorities would "pursue culprits of Friday's violence and bring them to justice."
Troops in armoured vehicles were deployed in Suez late Friday, taking up positions at the entry of the canal, outside the police headquarters and the governorate building.
Earlier, doctors at Suez Hospital told AFP at least five people had been shot in the chest and stomach as protesters and police clashed. In the province of Ismailiya, neighbouring Suez, protesters stormed the governorate headquarters, setting fire to a room used by security services and looting furniture and equipment, an AFP reporter said.
Demonstrators earlier torched the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Ismailiya, the reporter said. Black smoke billowed from the windows of the apartment housing the movement's Freedom and Justice Party offices.
In the Mediterranean city of Damietta, protesters surrounded the governorate building and blocked traffic, and in the Nile Delta city of Kafr el-Sheikh they stormed the courtyard of the governorate and clashed with police.
In Cairo, police fired tear gas at protesters outside the presidential palace, where clashes between Morsi's allies and foes in December killed several people.
Army and police forces were deployed to protect the building, which houses the information ministry as well as state television and radio.
Protesters also set fire to tyres and blocked traffic in both directions on the 6 October bridge, a flyover that connects east and west Cairo.
Some also blocked the underground metro at several stations in the city centre, paralysing the public transport used by millions every day.
In Egypt's second city Alexandria, as demonstrators clashed with the security forces, protesters set tyres alight, witnesses said.
Earlier on Friday, thousands of people marched across Egypt and converged on Tahrir Square in Cairo - focal point of the 2011 revolution - a day after clashes as protesters tried to pull down a cement wall blocking off the square.
The Muslim Brotherhood did not call its own rallies, instead marking the revolution anniversary by launching a charitable and social initiative dubbed "Together we will build Egypt." - AFP