CAIRO, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi declared a month-long
state of emergency in three cities along the Suez Canal where dozens of people
have been killed over the past four days in protests his allies say are designed
to overthrow him.
Seven people were shot dead and hundreds were injured
in Port Said on Sunday during the funerals of 33 people killed there when locals
angered by a court decision went on the rampage as anti-government protests
spread around the country.
A total of 49 people have been killed since
Thursday and Morsi's opponents, who accuse his Islamist Muslim Brotherhood of
betraying the revolution that ousted long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak, have called
for more demonstrations on Monday.
"Down, down Morsi, down down the
regime that killed and tortured us!" people in Port Said chanted as the coffins
of those killed on Saturday were carried through the streets.
was elected in June, is trying to fix a beleaguered economy and cool tempers
before a parliamentary poll in the next few months which is supposed to cement
Egypt's transition to democracy. Repeated eruptions of violence have weighed
heavily on the Egyptian pound.
In a televised address, he said a nightly
curfew would be introduced in Port Said, Ismailia and Suez, starting
Several hundred people protested in Ismailia, Suez and Port Said
after the announcement, in which Morsi also called for a dialogue with top
politicians. Activists in the three cities vowed to defy the curfew in protest
at the decision.
"The protection of the nation is the responsibility of
everyone. We will confront any threat to its security with force and firmness
within the remit of the law," he said, offering condolences to families of the
In Cairo the newly appointed Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim
was ejected from the funeral of one of the police officers who died during
Saturday's clashes in Port Said, according to witnesses and police
A police officer at the funeral said many of his colleagues
blame the interior minister for the deaths of at least two policemen during
Saturday's clashes as he did not allow the police there to carry weapons and
were only given teargas bombs.
The violence has exposed
a deep rift in the nation. Liberals and other opponents accuse Morsi of failing
to deliver on economic promises and say he has not lived up to pledges to
represent all Egyptians. His backers say the opposition is seeking to topple
Egypt's first freely elected leader.
Distancing itself from the latest
flare-ups, the opposition National Salvation Front said Morsi should have acted
far sooner to impose extra security measures that would end the
"Of course we feel the president is missing the real problem on
the ground which is his own polices," spokesman Khaled Dawoud told Reuters. "His
call to implement emergency law was an expected move given what is going on,
namely thuggery and criminal actions." The Front, formed late last year when
Morsi provoked protests and violence by expanding his powers and driving through
an Islamist-tinged constitution, has threatened to boycott the parliamentary
poll and call for more protests if its demands are not met, including for an
early presidential vote.
State television said seven people died from
gunshot wounds in Port Said on Sunday. Port Said's head of hospitals, Abdel
Rahman Farag, told Reuters more than 400 people had suffered from teargas
inhalation, while 38 were wounded by gunshots.
Gunshots had killed many
of the 33 who died on Saturday when residents rioted after a court sentenced 21
people, mostly from the Mediterranean port, to death for their role in deadly
soccer violence at a stadium there last year.
A military source said many
people in Port Said, which lies next to the increasingly lawless Sinai
Peninsula, possess guns because they do not trust the authorities to protect
them. However it was not clear who was behind the deaths and injuries.
Cairo, police fired teargas at dozens at protesters throwing stones and petrol
bombs in a fourth day of clashes over what demonstrators there and in other
cities say is a power grab by Islamists two years after Mubarak was
In Ismailia city, which lies on the Suez Canal between the
cities of Suez and Port Said, police also fired teargas at protesters attacking
a police station with petrol bombs and stones, according to witnesses and a
security source there.
Most of the deaths since
Thursday were in Port Said and Suez, both cities where the army has now been
Heba Morayef of Human Rights Watch in Cairo said a state of
emergency reintroduced laws that gave police sweeping powers of arrest "purely
because (people) look suspicious".
"It is a classic knee-jerk reaction to
think the emergency law will help bring security," she said. "It gives so much
discretion to the Ministry of Interior that it ends up causing more abuse which
in turn causes more anger." The opposition Popular Current and other groups have
called for more protests on Monday to mark what was one of the bloodiest days of
the 2011 uprising.
Anti-Morsi protesters who have been camped out in
Tahrir Square for weeks also demonstrated against Morsi's move to impose a state
of emergency, reviving memories of Mubarak's era when emergency codes were in
place for three decades and used to crush dissent and detain people without
Protesters say Morsi has betrayed the revolution's
"None of the revolution's goals have been realized," said Mohamed
Sami, a protester in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the cauldron of the uprising that
erupted on Jan. 25, 2011 and toppled Mubarak 18 days later.
going up. The blood of Egyptians is being spilt in the streets because of
neglect and corruption and because the Muslim Brotherhood is ruling Egypt for
their own interests." Clashes also erupted in other streets near the square. The
U.S. and British embassies, both close to Tahrir, said they were closed for
public business on Sunday, normally a working day.
The army, Egypt's
interim ruler until Morsi's election, was sent back onto the streets to restore
order in Port Said and Suez, which both lie on the Suez canal. In Suez, at least
eight people were killed in clashes with police.
Many ordinary Egyptians
are frustrated by the violence that have hurt the economy and their
"They are not revolutionaries protesting," said taxi driver
Kamal Hassan, 30, referring to those gathered in Tahrir. "They are thugs
destroying the country."