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Egypt’s Morsi issues state of emergency after dozens killed in riots

Egypt’s Morsi issues state of emergency after dozens killed in riots thumbnail

Egypt’s Islamist president issued state of emergency and called for political dialogue after at least 48 people were killed in clashes since Friday.

An angry Mohammed Morsi vowed in a televised address on Sunday he would not hesitate to take more action to stem the latest eruption of violence across much of the country, issuing 30-day states of emergencies in Port Said, Ismailiya and Suez.

In Port Said, tens of thousands of mourners filled the streets for a mass funeral for most of the 37 people killed in rioting a day earlier, chanting slogans against Mohammed Morsi and clashing with police.

Mourners chanted “There is no God but Allah,” and “Morsi is God’s enemy” as the funeral procession made its way through the city after prayers for the dead at the city’s Mariam Mosque. Women clad in black led the chants, which were quickly picked up by the rest of the mourners.

Violence erupted when some in the crowd fired guns and police responded with volleys of tear gas, witnesses said.

Port Said’s head of hospitals, Abdel Rahman Farag, told Reuters that three people were shot dead, including an 18-year-old. He added that 416 suffered from tear gas inhalation while 17 others were being treated for gunshot wounds.

The violence in the city, about 140 miles northeast of Cairo, broke out on Saturday after a court on Saturday convicted and sentenced 21 defendants to death for their roles in a mass soccer riot in a Port Said stadium on Feb. 1, 2012 that left 74 people dead. Most of those sentenced to death were local soccer fans from Port Said. The 21 were convicted on murder charges and the court is to rule on the remainder of the 73 defendants in March.

The riots stemmed mostly from animosity between police and die-hard Egyptian soccer fans, known as Ultras, who have become highly politicized. The Ultras frequently confront police and were also part of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak’s regime two years ago.

They were also at the forefront of protests against the military rulers who took over from Mubarak and are now again on the front lines of protests against Morsi, the country’s first freely elected leader.

In addition to the state of emergency announcements, Morsi also invited the nation’s political forces to a dialogue starting Monday to resolve the violence.

The predominantly secular and liberal opposition has in the past declined Morsi’s offers of dialogue, arguing that he must first show a political will to meet some of its demands.

There was no official reaction to Morsi’s moves by the National Salvation Front, an umbrella for the main opposition parties. Some opposition figures, however, told TV talk shows that they would take part in the dialogue but only if it is run by independent third parties and if they receive assurances that its outcome would be binding on everyone.

A prominent Islamist leader issued a thinly veiled warning that Islamist groups would set up militia-like vigilante groups to protect public and state property against future attacks.

Addressing a news conference, Tareq el-Zomr of the once-jihadist Gamaa Islamiya, said:

“If Security forces don’t achieve security, it will be the right of the Egyptian people and we at the forefront to set up popular committees to protect private and public property and counter the aggression on innocent citizens.”

The threat by el-Zomr was accompanied by his charge that the opposition was responsible for the deadly violence of the past few days, setting the stage for possible bloody clashes between protesters and Islamist militiamen. The opposition denies the charge.

On Sunday, there was also a funeral in Cairo for two policemen killed in the Port Said violence a day earlier. Several policemen grieving for their colleagues heckled Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim, who is in charge of the force, when he arrived for their funeral, according to witnesses. The angry officers screamed at the minister that he was only at the funeral for the TV cameras — a highly unusual show of dissent in Egypt, where the police force maintains military-like discipline.

Ibrahim hurriedly left and the funeral proceeded without him.

Survivors and witnesses of the Port Said soccer melee blame Mubarak loyalists for the violence, saying they had a hand in instigating the killings. The troubles erupted after Port Said’s home team Al-Masry beat Cairo’s Al-Ahly 3-1. Some witnesses said “hired thugs” wearing green T-shirts and posing as Al-Masry fans led the attacks.

Other witnesses said at the very least, police were responsible for gross negligence in the soccer violence, which killed 74 people, most of them Al-Ahly fans.

The trial was in Cairo and Judge Sobhi Abdel-Maguid did not give his reasoning when he handed down the guilty verdicts and sentences for 21 defendants. Executions in Egypt are usually carried out by hanging.

Verdicts for the remaining 52 defendants, including nine security officials, are to be delivered on March 9. Some have been charged with murder and others with assisting the attackers. All the defendants — who were not present in the courtroom Saturday for security reasons — can appeal the verdict.

In Port Said on Sunday, army troops backed by armored vehicles staked out positions at key government facilities to protect state interests and try to restore order.

The military issued a statement urging Port Said residents to exercise restraint and protect public property, but also warning that troops would deal “firmly” with anyone who “terrorizes” citizens or infringes upon the nation’s security and stability.

Rioters on Saturday attacked the prison where the defendants were being held and tried to storm police stations and government offices around the city. Health officials say at least 37 people were killed, including two policemen, in rioting on Saturday.

Clashes broke out in Cairo for the fourth straight day on Sunday, with protesters and police near central Tahrir Square, birthplace of the 2011 uprising. Police fired tear gas while protesters pelted them with rocks.

The clashes show how turmoil was deepening in Egypt nearly seven months after Morsi took office. Critics say Morsi has failed to carry out promised reforms of the judiciary and police, and claim little has improved in the two years since the uprising.

At the heart of the rising opposition toward Morsi’s government is a newly adopted constitution, which was ratified in a nationwide referendum.

Opponents claim the document has an Islamist slant. It was drafted hurriedly by the president’s allies without the participation of representatives of liberals and minority Christians on the panel that wrote the charter.

Protesters on the streets this past week demanded the formation of a national unity government, early presidential elections and amendments to disputed clauses in the constitution.

Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group from which he hails, counter that the opposition was seeking to overturn the results of democratic and free elections. The Brotherhood, a well-organized and established political group in Egypt for decades, has emerged as by far the most powerful force in post-Mubarak Egypt.

Fox News

3 Comments on "Egypt’s Morsi issues state of emergency after dozens killed in riots"

  1. BillT on Mon, 28th Jan 2013 4:11 am 

    And it is not even Spring yet, with starvation as the motive….lol.

  2. GregT on Mon, 28th Jan 2013 7:01 am 

    Is anyone really surprised?

  3. Arthur on Mon, 28th Jan 2013 2:37 pm 

    Fundamentalism is finally in the driving seat in Egypt. Syria, Jordan and Algeria could follow soon. The protesters are the ones who would prefer modernity, materialism, twitter and stuff. Not going to happen. Muhamed is back. The Maghreb/ME could become no-go areas for westerners in a not too distant future. Welcome to the multipolar world order.

    Sorry Henry (Kissinger).lol

    As a consequence, a lot of Israelis are dreaming of a return to Germany, or Weimar to be precise:

    Jews have fond memories to Weimar, when they almost succeeded in implementing bolshevism in Weimar-Germany. Maybe they want to try it again. These people are clearly less frightened by Germans than muslim fundi’s.

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