CAIRO — Police fired salvos of tear gas and birdshot Friday at rock-throwing protesters in Cairo as popular anger over a deadly soccer riot spilled over into a second day of street violence that left at least five people dead and more than 1,500 injured nationwide, officials said.
The protesters blame the police for failing to prevent a melee after a soccer match in the Mediterranean city of Port Said on Wednesday that killed 74 people in the soccer world’s worst violence in 15 years. Tensions across the nation have spiked in the wake of the riot, fueling anger at the ruling generals who took power after the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak last February.
Egyptians furious over the bloodshed took to the streets Friday in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and several Nile Delta cities, in many cases sparking clashes with security forces.
In the capital, protesters wearing helmets and gas masks fought their way through streets thick with smoke from tear gas toward the Interior Ministry, a frequent target for demonstrations because it is responsible for the police. As night fell, a government building across the street from the Interior Ministry caught fire, sending black smoke billowing into the sky.
In response to the crisis, the ruling military council issued a statement late Friday saying the country is passing through “the most dangerous and most important phase in Egypt’s history,” and calling on Egyptians to unite in the face of discord.
Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri urged Egypt’s intellectuals to intervene to stop the violence and said on the Cabinet’s Facebook page that he feared the protesters want to storm the Interior Ministry.
Neither appeal appeared likely to gain much traction with protesters on the streets, many of whom have suggested the authorities either instigated the Port Said violence or intentionally allowed it to happen to retaliate against the soccer fans known as Ultras who played a key role in clashes with security forces during the uprising that toppled Mubarak.
The clashes in Cairo began late Thursday and escalated overnight, with protesters pushing through the barricades erected around the fortress-like building and bringing down a wall of concrete blocks erected outside the ministry two months ago, after similar violence left more than 40 protesters dead.
Ambulances and volunteers on motorcycles ferried the injured, most of them suffering respiratory problems from the tear gas, to field hospitals set up nearby on Tahrir Square.
On the square Friday, thousands of people rallied to condemn the security forces for failing to stop the Port Said bloodshed, and pointed to the incident to bolster their claims that the military has mismanaged Egypt’s transition to a democracy. They also called for early presidential elections and demanded the army speed up the transfer of power to a civilian administration.
Meanwhile, some 1,500 protesters marched to the Defense Ministry, chanting “the people want to execute the marshal,” referring to Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of the ruling military council.
The death toll from Friday’s violence stood at five.
One security officer was killed and 138 injured, according to the official MENA news agency.
One protester in Cairo was killed after being hit by birdshot at close range, a volunteer doctor said on condition of anonymity because he feared reprisals.View Entire Story
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