Cairo, Jan 27: The death toll in fierce clashes in Egypt rose to 38 with over 700 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 last year's post-match riot. The bodies, wrapped in white shrouds, were carried in open coffins along the main avenue of Port Said, an Egyptian canal city, during which a brief burst of gunfire set off chaotic scenes that later degenerated into rioting.
Three persons were killed on Sunday while more than 400 were injured in the city when unidentified gunmen opened fire at the funeral of the people killed in violence yesterday. 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.
The epicentre of the current unrest in Egypt has moved from the capital Cairo to the area of the Suez Canal. In Cairo, the smell of acrid tear gas still lingered in the skies as skirmishes erupted all day between protesters and the security. Condemning the clashes that had left over 300 people injured yesterday, 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 38, with three people, including an 18-year-old boy, killed in violence today.
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 last February following a game with Cairo side Al-Ahly. The violence yesterday 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. Egypt's interior minister was barred by angry anti-riot policemen today from attending the funeral of two colleagues killed in clashes, the official news agency MENA reported. Dozens of policemen prevented Mohammed Ibrahim from entering the Cairo mosque where the funerals were held. The action was in protest at police not having been armed with live rounds to protect themselves, MENA said.
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 yesterday, 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 yesterday, 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. Army was 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.