CAIRO, February 4, 2012 (AFP)
CAIRO, February 4, 2012 (AFP)
A second day of clashes with Egyptian police left five more people dead on Friday as anger against the ruling military boiled over amid fury at the recent deaths of 74 people in football-related violence.
Marchers took to the streets across the country to demand that the generals cede power immediately after a night of violence in several cities.
Two protesters died in Cairo of tear gas inhalation after being rushed to hospital unconscious from outside the interior ministry, where clashes raged into Friday night.
Another two protesters died in violence in the northeast canal city of Suez, according to a security source.
Meanwhile the official Mena news agency reported that a soldier injured while guarding the interior ministry building, succumbed to his wounds in hospital.
In another hit to the the already-suffering tourism sector, two American women and their Egyptian tour guide were briefly kidnapped by armed Bedouins in the Sinai peninsula, before being released unharmed after several hours, security officials said.
The kidnappers stole watches, phones and money from a tour bus on its way from the historic St Catherine’s monastery to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh before snatching the two tourists and their guide, the officials told AFP.
The health ministry said 1,051 people were also injured on Friday.
Thick clouds of tear gas blanketed the road to the ministry in the capital.
Protesters, many of them organised supporters of Cairo’s main football clubs known as Ultras, held up a huge banner to the police that read: “Those who didn’t deserve to die have died at the hands of those who don’t deserve to live.”
Many of the dead in Wednesday’s football riot in the northern city of Port Said were thought to have been Al-Ahly supporters, set upon by partisans of the local Al-Masry side after the Cairo side lost 3-1 as police on duty stood by.
The Ultras played a prominent role among anti-regime elements in the uprising that overthrew president Hosni Mubarak a year ago. Some commentators and citizens have suggested pro-Mubarak forces were behind the massacre, or at least complicit.
Rocks and stones flew in all directions as police vans in Cairo repeatedly charged before retreating. At one point, police clubbed protesters who were just metres (yards) away from the ministry headquarters.
Across the street, a building housing the Tax Authority was on fire, state television reported without providing details.
A soldier injured outside the interior ministry building on Thursday died in hospital on Friday, the state MENA news agency reported.
In nearby Tahrir Square — nerve centre of the mass rallies that forced Mubarak from power — thousands chanted slogans against the military junta that took power when the president quit.
In Suez, where two demonstrators were also killed on Thursday, police fired birdshot and tear gas to disperse protesters, an AFP reporter said.
Under a volley of rocks and stones, ambulances ferried the injured out of the central Al-Arbaeen Square at the opposite end of the Suez Canal to Port Said where Wednesday night’s stadium deaths enraged the nation.
Thousands also took to the streets to denounce the junta in Egypt’s second city of Alexandria and in Port Said.
Gunmen carrying automatic weapons stormed a police station in east Cairo, freeing the detainees before setting fire to the building.
And in the city’s Dokki neighbourhood, a group of men attacked a police station, retrieving weapons from the building.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) blamed the unrest on “foreign and domestic hands targeting the country.”
In a statement on Facebook, it urged “all political and national forces of this great nation to take a national and historic role and intervene … to return stability.”
Wednesday’s clashes between fans of home team Al-Masry and Al-Ahly marked one of the deadliest incidents in football history. Witnesses said that the security forces did little to prevent the rioting.
After the final whistle, victorious Al-Masry fans invaded the pitch, throwing rocks, bottles and fireworks at Al-Ahly supporters, causing panic as players and fans fled in all directions, witnesses said.
On Friday, Egypt’s prosecutor general slapped a travel ban on the head of the Egyptian Football Association Samir Zaher — a day after he was sacked — and on ex-Port Said governor Mohammed Abdullah, who resigned following the clashes.
“This happened as security services stood by and did nothing, like they did in previous events, and perhaps they even contributed to the massacre,” wrote Ibrahim Mansur, a columnist for the independent daily Al-Tahrir.
Egyptians have become increasingly angry with the junta, which they accuse of failing to manage the country and of human rights abuses.
For months, they have taken to the streets to demand the overthrow of the SCAF and its chief, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who was Mubarak’s defence minister for two decades.
The SCAF has pledged to cede full powers to civilian rule when a president is elected by the end of June.
But widespread suspicions that the military aims to retain some powers after the transition were fuelled by comments from former US president Jimmy Carter after he met the generals repeatedly last month.
“When I met with military leaders, my impression was they want to have some special privilege in the government after the president is elected,” Carter said.