Egypt Police Withdraw From Port Said

The Egyptian military has taken over security duties from the police in the restive city of Port Said, the interior ministry has said.

Police were withdrawn from the streets “to calm tension”, the ministry said, after days of clashes with protesters.

At least one person was shot dead as violence continued overnight.

The move comes ahead of verdicts due on Saturday in cases involving dozens of people over a deadly football riots in Port Said in February 2012.

Twenty-one local football fans were sentenced to death in January over the riots, which left 74 people dead.

Fifty-two remaining defendants – including nine police officers – will be judged by a court sitting for security reasons in the capital, Cairo.

Police strike
Police and protesters have clashed around the security headquarters for the past six days, since word spread that defendants still facing trial were being moved to outside the city.

At least seven people – civilians and security officials – have been killed in the violence.

There has been widespread antagonism towards the police since the mass protests which brought down former President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

Most of those who died in last February’s football riots were supporters of Cairo’s Al-Ahly team – many people believe police stood by in revenge for the fans’ role in the anti-Mubarak protests.

On Friday, news that police were being withdrawn was met with celebrations by demonstrators in Port Said, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Some stood on tanks, chanting in support of the military, the agency said.

The military was deployed in Port Said in January, when violence erupted over the football riot verdicts.

The heightened tensions comes amid an unprecedented strike by thousands of low-ranking police across Egypt.

The action, now its fifth day, is in protest at being forced to confront protesters and a lack of protection for police from prosecution.

The Egyptian chief of security forces was replaced on Friday to try to defuse anger among police, an interior ministry official told BBC Arabic.