Cairo: The death toll in fierce clashes in Egypt rose to 36 with over 500 injured as fresh violence erupted on Sunday during the funeral of the people killed in the unrest triggered by death sentences given to 21 football fans for a 2012 post-match riot. The bodies, wrapped in white shrouds, were carried in open coffins along the city's main avenue during which a brief burst of gunfire set off chaotic scenes.
At least 270 people were injured in the canal city of Port Said after unidentified assailants opened fire on the funeral procession for protesters killed during clashes in the city on Saturday, Egypt Independent reported. Live ammunition, birdshot and tear gas were responsible for most of the injuries. Eyewitnesses claim to have seen masked groups shooting security troops in Police Club Square during the funeral procession.
While no accurate information was provided on who was behind the shooting, military sources said that protesters who broke into police stations on Saturday may have stolen weapons and tear gas to use during the funeral. Condemning the clashes that also left over 300 people injured on Saturday, the Presidency called for a national dialogue in the wake of the ongoing unrest.
In a statement, it also praised police and judiciary for their integrity. The Presidency's statement came as the Health Ministry said the death toll in the fierce clashes between protesters and security forces in Port Said had climbed to 36, with an 18-year-old boy dying of gunshots to the chest.
Chaos broke out soon after a court yesterday handed down the death penalty to 21 fans of Port Said club Al-Masry over the killing of 74 people in post-match violence in February 2012, following a game with Cairo side Al-Ahly. The violence on Saturday came at a time when unrest was sweeping Egypt on the second anniversary of the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak.
Clashes marking the revolution's second anniversary on Friday left at least nine people dead and 530 injured. The Muslim Brotherhood has accused opposition groups of "spreading sabotage," in the wake of violent protest that have gripped the country for the past two days.
In a statement on Saturday, the Brotherhood said that the opposition's silence after attacks against its offices and Freedom and Justice Party headquarters amounted to them "gloating over Egypt and Egyptians," and accused opposition groups of supporting such attacks. The group also accused the media of misleading the public, "spreading hatred" against the regime and inciting "sabotage."
Ahmed al-Boraie, vice president of the Dostour Party, rejected attempts to tie his party and other opposition parties to the violence, saying, "Neither us, nor Egyptians have any (connection to) the violence. It's the responsibility of the Cabinet."
The Egyptian army also posted a short statement on its Facebook page on Saturday, saying it stands at an equal distance from all political parties, and reiterated that it is loyal to the Egyptians. Meanwhile, Egypt's main opposition bloc National Salvation Front announced that it will not participate in the next Parliamentary elections in the wake of the chaos and division in the country.
Unrest also gripped the city centre of the capital Cairo, where fresh clashes took place between security forces and protesters in the premises of the Ministry of the Interior. Armywas deployed to protect the Suez Canal, amid reports that fire was opened on a ship carrying the Greek flag.
Protesters had stormed a police station in Suez following fierce clashes with security forces, and freed prisoners there. They also took away the weapons that were left behind by policemen who fled the station as it was being stormed.
Earlier, protesters threw molotov cocktails at the police station, while security forces fired tear gas to disperse them, witnesses said. Fire caught a nearby building as well, according to Khaled Bahgat, the head of the Civil Defence Authority.
Suez has been the site of bloody clashes since Friday, the second anniversary of the January 25 revolution which had also kicked off in the same city. In a bid to prevent violent confrontations, the military took over the Suez security directorate from police forces on Saturday evening.
After the mass uprising of 2011 overthrew Mubarak, Egyptians for the first time elected a government of their own. But the developments post-election have left the country sharply polarised.
The presidential vote that elected Brotherhood leader Mohamed Mursi as the president was far from overwhelming for any single candidate. A recent referendum on the Constitution also left the country deeply divided with the secular and liberal opposition terming the draft as "too Islamist" that would compromise on the rights of the minorities. Mursi took to Twitter to appeal for calm, urging "citizens to adhere to the values of the revolution, express opinions freely and peacefully and renounce violence".