Mass funeral held in Egypt after riots kill 37
PORT SAID, Egypt (AP) — Tens of thousands of mourners chanting slogans against Islamist President Mohammed Morsi poured into the streets of the restive Egyptian city of Port Said on Sunday for a mass funeral for most of the 37 people killed in rioting a day earlier.
Violence erupted briefly when some in the crowd fired guns and police responded with volleys of tear gas, witnesses said. State television reported 110 were injured.
“We are very worried about what may happen after the burial,” said local youth activist Rasha Hamouda, noting the city was fraught with tension.
There was also a funeral in Cairo for one of two policemen killed in the Port Said violence a day earlier. Several policemen grieving for two 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 militarylike discipline.
Mr. Ibrahim hurriedly left, and the funeral proceeded without him.
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 President Hosni Mubarak’s regime two years ago.
They were also at the forefront of protests against the military rulers who took over from Mr. Mubarak and are now again on the front lines of protests against Mr. Morsi, the country’s first freely elected leader.
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.
There were no police or army troops in sight. But the funeral procession briefly halted after gunfire rang out. Security officials said the gunfire came from several mourners who opened fire at the Police Club next to the cemetery.
A witness said the police responded to the gunfire with volleys of tear gas. The witness and the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation in the city on the Mediterranean at the northern tip of the Suez Canal.
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.
Anger at police was evident in Port Said, home to most of the 73 men accused of involvement in the bloodshed.
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.