Egyptian protesters and police clash in Port Said | Middle East| News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW | 04.03.2013
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Middle East

Egyptian protesters and police clash in Port Said

Egyptian protesters have clashed with police in the canal city of Port Said after a funeral procession, injuring several people. Part of a government complex was also set on fire in a second day of violence in the city.

Clashes erupted on Monday when protesters threw rocks at the police headquarters, which is located in a government complex. Police responded with tear gas, but military forces in the city stood by during the exchange. Medical officials said at least eight people were injured by birdshot.

A fire was reportedly started on the ground floor of the security headquarters and rescuers were unable to reach the area.

The violence followed a funeral procession for civilians killed in clashes with police the day before.

Sunday clashes

Port Said's recent unrest has been fueled by anger over death sentences handed down earlier this year to local football fans for their role in a deadly February 2012 stadium clash.

The turmoil escalated again Sunday evening in clashes that killed six people - three civilians and three policemen. Hundreds were injured in the violence, which also involved the military. Troops tried to break up the fighting, and at some points opened fire over the heads of police.

The interior ministry said in a statement that unknown assailants had randomly attacked police and army personnel in the city "with the aim of creating sedition and divisions" between them, urging local residents "to stay away from groupings near government buildings."

The military deployed troops and vehicles to escort Monday's funeral procession.

"The interior ministry [officials] are cowards!" chanted angry mourners during the march. They also demanded that Islamist President Mohammed Morsi "leave."

Port Said violence

In January, a Cairo court sentenced 21 people, mostly fans of local football club Al-Masry, for their role in stadium violence last year that left over 70 people dead.

More than 40 civilians were killed in ensuing protests over the verdicts, with many residents accusing local police of using excessive force. Rather than siding with the protesters, Morsi has been supportive of security forces and labeled protesters in the city "thugs," sparking outrage among the local population.

For nearly three weeks, Port Said, which lies on the Mediterranean coast at the mouth of the Suez Canal, has seen protests, strikes and work stoppages, including the blocking of a major airport.

Sunday's violence was the military's most dramatic involvement in Egypt's latest unrest, and has raised concern the military could again take on a more political role in the country. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) ran the country during the tumultuous period between longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak's ousting in February 2011 and when Morsi took office in June of last year.

Egypt has seen nationwide protests in the past few months, with the country deeply divided between Morsi's mainly Islamist allies and opposition groups that say the president has failed to meet the goals of the revolution. Morsi has been criticized for following in the footsteps of Mubarak, not carrying out reforms and trying to install a more religiously conservative government.

dr/pfd (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)