Egypt Soldiers In Fatal Clashes With Port Said Protesters

Egypt’s security forces clashed with protesters in Port Said yesterday while demonstrators in Cairo rallied outside the central bank and stock exchange in a weekend of violence that left at least four dead and hundreds injured.

At least two soldiers and a civilian died as rocks and firebombs were hurled at Port Said’s security headquarters, the state-run Ahram Gate reported. Hundreds of soccer fans gathered outside government buildings in Cairo to demand accountability after a man died during riots in the Nile delta town of Mansoura, the Middle East News Agency said.

The clashes deepen the turmoil that has plagued Egypt since the 2011 uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak and compound President Mohamed Morsi’s challenges in reviving a battered economy. The turmoil comes ahead of parliamentary elections next month that a main opposition bloc, the National Salvation Front, plans to boycott.

The 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. Kerry yesterday said the Obama administration will release $250 million of a pledged $1 billion in aid in response to Morsi’s commitments to make economic and political changes.

At least 408 protesters were injured in Port Said yesterday, Ahram Gate said, citing an unidentified health ministry official.

Police Attacked

Skirmishes between security forces and demonstrators trying to block Cairo’s Tahrir Square took place around the plaza, MENA reported. A group of people attacked guards in a police car and helped three detainees in it escape before driving the vehicle to the square and setting it on fire, the agency said, citing an unidentified Interior Ministry official.

Soccer fans known as Ultras set tires on fire and briefly blocked a road leading to the airport in Cairo, with security forces deployed to secure the airport, MENA said. Some demonstrators were protesting Kerry’s visit, according to the news agency.

More than 30 people were killed in unrest in Port Said in January after a court sentenced 21 people to death on charges connected to violence after a soccer game last year that left dozens dead. Security was boosted outside the central bank over the weekend after protesters rallied there to demand retribution for soccer violence killings, the Interior Ministry said.

Political bickering and protests against Morsi have complicated Egypt’s bid to secure a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. Opponents of the president accuse him of working to tighten his grip on power while failing to end police abuses and other grievances that fueled the 2011 revolt.

Police officers were among the hundreds injured over the weekend. The Interior Ministry said the brother of the victim in Mansoura said the man died after he was unintentionally hit by a police car.