Police in Cairo set off salvos of tear gas and fired birdshot at protesters angry over a deadly soccer riot as fresh clashes on Egyptian streets killed three people yesterday, a volunteer doctor and health officials said.
One man died just meters away from the Egyptian Interior Ministry, which has become a target for demonstrators furious that the police failed to prevent a soccer riot that killed 74 people in the Mediterranean city of Port Said on Wednesday. It was the world’s worst soccer violence in 15 years.
Protesters angry over the deadly riot turned their rallies in Cairo and the city of Suez into a call for Egypt’s ruling military council, led by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, to surrender power because of what they say is the military’s mismanagement of the country’s transition to democracy. More rallies were planned yesterday.
A volunteer doctor said the man in Cairo died of wounds from birdshot fired at close range during clashes at dawn yesterday. The doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared reprisals by the authorities, said his field hospital close to Cairo’s Tahrir Square was overwhelmed with injuries overnight.
Earlier yesterday, police shot dead two protesters in clashes with security forces in Suez, health official Mohammed Lasheen said. About 3,000 people had demonstrated in front of the city’s police headquarters and police fired tear gas and live ammunition, witnesses said. A third protester in Suez was in critical condition because of a wound to the neck. Suez city security chief denied the deaths there were from police gunfire.
In Cairo, protests spiraled into violent clashes between the protesters and police late on Thursday as demonstrators charged toward the Interior Ministry, which oversees the police. Thousands threw rocks, and police responded with tear gas and birdshot.
The clashes intensified overnight, with protesters pushing through the barricades erected around the fortress-like building and bringing down a wall of concrete blocks erected outside the ministry two months ago, after similar violence left more than 40 protesters dead.
The ministry urged the protesters in a statement “to listen to the sound of wisdom ... at these critical moments” and prevent the spread of chaos.
Wednesday’s deaths of 74 people in a post-match stadium riot in Port Said fueled anger at Egypt’s ruling military generals and the already widely distrusted police force. The police had become notorious as the key tool of the oppressive regime of former -Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in a popular uprising in February last year.
Many in the public and in the newly elected parliament blamed the new leadership for letting the soccer riot happen — whether because of a lack of control by the security forces, or as some allege, intentionally.
The soccer violence began after home team al-Masry pulled out a surprise 3-1 victory over Cairo-based al-Ahly, Egypt’s most powerful club. Al-Masry fans stormed the field, rushing past lines of police to attack al-Ahly’s fans.
Survivors described a nightmarish scene in the Port Said stadium. Police stood by doing nothing, they said, as fans of al-Masry attacked al-Ahly supporters, stabbing them and throwing them off bleachers.
The parliament later accused the interior minister of “negligence.”