Deadly Egypt rallies follow violence on football pitch
An Egyptian protestor throws away a tear gas canister fired by security forces near the Interior Ministry in Cairo. REUTERS photoProtesters hurled rocks through clouds of tear gas and riot police fired live rounds on a second day of fighting around Egypt’s Interior Ministry triggered by the deaths of 74 people in the country’s worst soccer disaster. A demonstrator and an army officer were reported dead in Cairo and in the city of Suez two people were killed as police used live rounds to hold back crowds trying to break into a police station and fought in front of the state security headquarters, witnesses and the ambulance authority said.
Most of those killed in the Port Said football stadium on Jan. 1 night were crushed in a stampede and the government declared three days of mourning, but protesters hold the military-led authorities responsible. The ministry in Cairo, an object of hatred for football fans who say lax policing was to blame for the stadium disaster, was still hemmed in by the street battles on Jan. 3, though the ranks of protesters had thinned since Jan. 2 night. Thousands threw rocks, and police responded with tear gas and birdshot. The clashes intensified overnight, with protesters pushing through the barricades erected around the fortress-like building and bringing down a wall of concrete blocks erected outside the ministry two months ago. The Interior Ministry urged the protesters in a statement “to listen to the sound of wisdom ... at these critical moments” and prevent the spread of chaos.
Destruction in Suez
Twenty-eight youth activist groups and political parties called for mass protests on what was called the “Friday of Anger”. A few hundred people, some of them protesters who had camped out overnight, held midday prayers in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square. Close to 400 people have been hurt in the confrontations since Jan. 2, the health ministry said, many of them by inhaling tear gas fired by riot police protecting the interior ministry. Hardcore football fans known as Ultras, who often clash with the police and were at the forefront of the popular uprising against Mubarak one year ago, vowed to continue their protests. “The crimes committed against the revolutionary forces will not stop the revolution or scare the revolutionaries,” said a pamphlet printed in the name of the Ultras. Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said the fans started it by insulting and provoking each other. Many shops in Suez were wrecked and the facade of the Suez Canal Bank was destroyed. Police had cordoned off the Suez state security headquarters and a Justice Ministry compound with razor wire and seven burned-out vehicles lay nearby.