Clashes between Egyptian security forces and protesters in Port Said resumed today after five people were killed and hundreds injured, fueling calls for nationwide rallies and deepening the country’s turmoil.
Unknown assailants “randomly” opened fire yesterday in the area around Port Said’s security headquarters, fatally wounding two members of the forces guarding it, and clashes continued into the night, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported. Television footage today showed renewed fighting, with police using tear gas, and parts of the security building as well as the nearby governorate were on fire.
Unrest has persisted in Egypt since the 2011 uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak, adding to President Mohamed Mursi’s challenges in reviving a battered economy. While Mursi and his Islamist supporters say parliamentary elections starting next month will help restore stability, the broadest opposition bloc, the National Salvation Front, has refused to take part.
The president’s critics accuse him of working to tighten his grip on power while failing to end police abuses and other grievances that fueled the 2011 revolt.
The boycott decision adds to political uncertainty in Egypt and may make it harder for the government to negotiate a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, Moody’s Investors Service said in a report.
Egypt’s main stock index fell 1.4 percent at midday in Cairo, heading for a 2013 low. Yields on the country’s benchmark dollar bonds rose 3 basis points to 7.14 percent.
The opposition Egyptian Popular Current said it is organizing rallies tomorrow in Cairo and other cities in solidarity with the people of Port Said, and in support of calls for civil disobedience.
“Nothing has changed” under Mursi, Heba Yassin, a spokeswoman for the Popular Current, led by former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, said by phone. She said unrest is likely to continue and accused Mursi’s administration of continuing the “intimidation, killing and torturing” of the Mubarak era.
The latest round of violence in Port Said, which left more than 400 wounded, was sparked when the families of prisoners held in connection with soccer violence heard that their relatives were being transferred, MENA said. More than 30 people died in clashes in Port Said in January triggered by death sentences handed out in the soccer case.
Army personnel in Port Said are seeking to separate the protesters from police, and to protect the governorate building, spokesman Ahmed Mohammed Ali said on the military’s Facebook page. An army colonel was among those injured, suffering a gunshot wound, MENA said.
Clashes also broke out in Cairo yesterday between security forces and demonstrators trying to block Tahrir Square, MENA reported. Also in the capital, soccer fans known as ultras rallied outside the central bank and the bourse and briefly blocked a road leading to the airport, according to state media.
In the Nile Delta city of Mansoura, one person was killed and dozens, including police, were injured in clashes over the weekend between security forces and demonstrators.
The Interior Ministry cited the dead man’s brother as saying that he was unintentionally hit by a police car. Prime Minister Hisham Qandil has ordered an investigation of the violence, the Cabinet said on Saturday.
The latest violence coincided with a visit by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who urged Egyptian officials and opposition politicians to overcome differences for the sake of the economy.