|Photo by: REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih|
Clashes continue in fourth day of violence in Egypt
By MELANIE LIDMAN
Death toll reaches 41 in 3 days of protests after judge announces death penalty for 21 soccer fans on trial for stadium disaster.
PORT SAID/CAIRO – Police fired tear gas at dozens of stone-throwing protesters in Cairo on Sunday in a fourth day of street violence that has killed at least 41 people.
Although scuffles continued on Sunday morning in Cairo, there was no immediate sign of the kind of deadly escalation of previous days in the capital or elsewhere. On a bridge close to Tahrir Square, youths were hurling stones at police
in riot gear who fired tear gas to push them back towards the square
which was the cauldron of the uprising that erupted on Jan. 25, 2011 and
toppled Mubarak 18 days later.
The US embassy in Cairo, which
is near Tahrir Square, said it was suspending public services on Sunday
"due to the security situation in the vicinity" of the mission.
At least 32 people were killed on Saturday when
Egyptians rampaged in protest at the sentencing of 21 people to death
over a soccer stadium disaster. The violence compounds the political
crisis facing Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.
and military police fanned through the streets of Port Said, a city of
some 600,000 people, where gunshots rang out and protesters burned tires
in anger that people from their city had been blamed for stadium deaths
The rioting in Port Said, one of the most deadly
spasms of violence since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster two years ago, followed a
day of anti-Morsi demonstrations on Friday, when nine people were
killed. The toll over the past two days stands at 41.
flare-ups make it even tougher for Morsi, who drew fire last year for
expanding his powers and pushing through an Islamist tinged constitution,
to fix the creaking economy and to cool tempers enough to ensure a
smooth parliamentary election.
That vote is expected in
April and is meant to cement a democratic transition that has been
blighted from the outset by political rows and street clashes.
National Defense Council, led by Morsi and which includes the defense
minister who commands the army, called for “a broad national dialogue
that would be attended by independent national characters” to discuss
political differences and ensure a “fair and transparent” parliamentary
The statement was made on state television by Information Minister Salah Abdel Maqsoud, who is also on the council.
National Salvation Front of liberal-minded groups and other opponents
cautiously welcomed the call but demanded any such dialogue have a clear
agenda and guarantees that any deal would be implemented, spokesman
Khaled Dawoud told Reuters.
The Front spurned previous calls for dialogue, saying Morsi ignored voices beyond his Islamist allies.
The Front earlier on Saturday threatened an election boycott and to call for more protests on Friday if demands were not met.
Its demands included picking a national unity government to restore order and holding an early presidential poll.
judge announced the death penalty on Saturday for 21 of the 73
defendants on trial for the Port Said massacre. Clashes in Port Said
following the announcement of the verdict left at least nine dead and
dozens more injured, according to the Egyptian daily Al- Ahram.
people died in riots at a soccer stadium in Port Said on February 1,
2012. Eyewitnesses said police did nothing to stop the melee that broke
out between rival soccer teams and even refused to open the doors to
allow people to escape. The massacre was held up as proof of the
country’s slide toward anarchy.
Over the past week, the “ultras,”
or young soccer hooligans who are often at the head of protest marches
and responsible for much of the violence at Egypt’s protests posted
online threats promising to destroy and burn buildings across Cairo if
they were unsatisfied with the verdict.
If it is anything less than capital punishment, “the country will burn,” one 19-year-old ‘ultra’ named Ahmed told The Jerusalem Post on Friday in Tahrir Square.
are angry because we haven’t received our rights... It’s not just a
football match, the [Muslim] Brotherhood wants to continue to burn the
country to they can continue to rule,” he said. “There’s no justice.”
the aftermath of clashes on Friday night to mark the two-year
anniversary of the revolution, pundits and politicians focused much
attention on a new group of protesters who also could be linked to the
ultras: the black bloc.
For the first time on Friday, teenagers
and young people came out in force dressed head-to-toe in black, many
wearing black ski masks.
The term “black bloc” began in Germany
in the 1970s with a group of anarchists and has been used loosely in a
number of other instances since then, including at the anti-World Trade
Organization protests in Seattle in 1999 and the G20 summit in Toronto
In Egypt, members of the black bloc refused to speak to the media.
one knows anything about them, they appeared three or four days ago,”
said Adel, an Arabic literature teacher who saw them in Tahrir Square on
Friday for the first time. “Some people think they are ‘ultras,’ but
they issued a statement on Friday saying ‘we’re not ultras, we’re not
anyone.’” However, some wore ski masks with the insignia of the Al Ahly
Many seasoned activists dismissed the black blocs as
angry teenagers looking to stir up trouble, who will not have a lasting
“We might see a reemergence [in coming protests], but I don’t expect them to hijack the revolution,” said Adel.
the black bloc] anarchist revolutionaries or 18 year olds who live with
their moms & wear black masks thinking life is a video game?” one
activist asked sarcastically on Twitter.
Reuters contributed to this report.