Deadly Clashes across Egypt, Army Deployed
Riots in protest at Port Said court verdict prompt Egyptian military intervention
London, Asharq Al-Awsat—At least 27 people were killed in Egypt on Saturday after Egyptians in Port Said rioted in protest to a court verdict sentencing 21 people to death for their part in the 2012 Port Said stadium disaster.
Following the verdict, fierce clashes erupted between relatives of the victims and police guarding prisons where those convicted are being held. This resulted in armored vehicles and military police being deployed on the streets to quell the violence. Egyptian state news agency quoted a general as saying that the military had been sent to “establish calm and stability in Port Said and to protect public institutions”.
Port Said residents rampaged through the city’s streets, outraged that city residents were being blamed for the stadium disaster. Gunshots were reported near the prison where most of the defendants were being held. Security sources reported that 27 people, including two police officers, had been killed, while state television reported that more than 200 people had been wounded in the violence.
The Port Said football riot is widely viewed as being one of the world’s deadliest incidents of football violence, resulting in 74 people being killed.
Unrest had flared across the country on the second anniversary of the 25 January uprising, exposing deep rifts in post-revolution Egypt. Nine people were shot dead on Friday in nation-wide protests against Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Mursi while the Egyptian armed forces deployed troops on the ground in Suez and Port Said on Saturday after deadly clashes erupted in both cities.
Egyptian President Mursi appealed for calm. In a message posted on his Twitter account Friday, Mursi urged “citizens to adhere to the values of the revolution, express opinions freely and peacefully, and renounce violence.” His office also issued a statement stressing that Egyptian authorities would not hesitate in “pursuing the criminals and delivering them to justice”.
The nation-wide protesters were fueled by anger at President Mursi and his Islamist allies over what protesters perceive as a betrayal of the 25 January revolution. The deep rifts between Egypt’s secular and Islamist forces are hampering President Mursi’s efforts to revive Egypt’s faltering economy and reverse the steady decline in the strength of the Egyptian currency. Mursi was only elected last June.
Protesters have accused Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood of hijacking Egypt’s revolution, which ended 30 years of autocratic rule. For their part, Mursi and his allies accuse their opponents of ignoring the principles of democracy that brought them to office.