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One killed, many hurt at funerals in Egypt port city

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Sun, 27 Jan 2013 15:27 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* 18-year-old shot dead, hundreds injured in new clashes

* Deadly Port Said riots erupted after court verdict

* Protests flared during revolution anniversary

* Opponents say President Mursi betrayed revolution (Adds death, injury toll in Port Said, opposition comment)

By Edmund Blair and Shaimaa Fayed

CAIRO, Jan 27 (Reuters) - A man was shot dead and hundreds of people were injured in Egypt's Port Said on Sunday during the funerals of 33 protesters killed at the weekend in the city, part of a wave of violence that has compounded challenges facing President Mohamed Mursi.

The 18-year-old victim was killed by a gunshot wound in the chest, Abdel Rahman Farag, the Mediterranean port's head of hospitals told Reuters. More than 416 people suffered from teargas inhalation, while 17 sustained gunshot wounds, he said.

Gunshots had killed many of the 33 who died on Saturday when residents went on the rampage after a court sentenced 21 people, mostly from the city, to death for their role in a deadly stadium disaster in Port Said last year.

Some in the crowd chanted on Sunday for revenge or shouted anti-Mursi slogans. "Our soul and blood, we sacrifice to Port Said," they said, as coffins were carried through the streets.

Elsewhere in Egypt, police fired teargas at dozens of stone-throwing protesters in Cairo in a fourth day of clashes over what demonstrators there and in other cities say is a power grab by Islamists two years after Hosni Mubarak was overthrown.

The protesters accuse Mursi, elected in June with the support of his Muslim Brotherhood group, of betraying the democratic goals of the revolution. Since protests began on Thursday, 43 people have been killed, most in Port Said and Suez, both cities where the army has now been deployed.

The violence adds to the daunting task facing Mursi as he tries to fix a beleaguered economy and cool tempers before a parliamentary election expected in the next few months which is supposed to cement Egypt's transition to democracy.

It has exposed a deep rift in the nation. Liberals and other opponents accuse Mursi of failing to deliver on economic promises and say he has not lived up to pledges to represent all Egyptians. His backers say the opposition is seeking to topple Egypt's first freely elected leader by undemocratic means.

"BLOOD BEING SPILT"

"None of the revolution's goals have been realised," said Mohamed Sami, a protester in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Sunday.

"Prices are going up. The blood of Egyptians is being spilt in the streets because of neglect and corruption and because the Muslim Brotherhood is ruling Egypt for their own interests."

On a bridge close to Tahrir Square, youths hurled stones at police in riot gear who fired teargas to push them back towards the square, the cauldron of the uprising that erupted on Jan. 25, 2011 and toppled Mubarak 18 days later.

Clashes also erupted in other streets near the square. The U.S. and British embassies, both close to Tahrir, said they were closed for public business on Sunday.

The army, Egypt's interim ruler until Mursi's election, was sent back onto the streets to restore order in Port Said and Suez, which both lie on the Suez canal. In Suez, at least eight people were killed in clashes with police.

Egypt's defence minister who also heads the army, Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, called for the nation to stand together and said the military would not prevent peaceful protests. But he called on demonstrators to protect public property.

Many ordinary Egyptians are frustrated by the regular escalations that have hurt the economy and their livelihoods.

"They are not revolutionaries protesting," said taxi driver Kamal Hassan, 30, referring to those gathered in Tahrir. "They are thugs destroying the country."

CALL FOR DIALOGUE

The National Defence Council, headed by Mursi, called on Saturday for national dialogue to discuss political differences.

That offer has been cautiously welcomed by the opposition National Salvation Front. But the coalition has demanded a clear agenda and guarantees that any agreements will be implemented.

The Front, formed late last year when Mursi provoked protests and violence by expanding his powers and driving through an Islamist-tinged constitution, has threatened to boycott the parliamentary poll and to call for more protests if a list of demands is not met, including having an early presidential vote.

Opponents also criticised Mursi for not taking a more public role during weekend violence. The Popular Current movement, led by leftist Hamdeen Sabahy, said it "denounces the state of silence of the presidency and the government during the sad events that the country went through the past 48 hours".

Egypt's transition has been blighted from the outset by political rows and turbulence on the streets that have driven investors out and kept many tourists away, starving the economy of vital sources of hard currency.

Egypt's pound has been hit hard by the turmoil, steadily weakening against the dollar despite efforts by the central bank to slow the fall and preserve foreign reserves now at critical levels. The latest violence has added to investors' concerns.

The Port Said clashes erupted after a judge sentenced 21 men to death for involvement in 74 deaths at a soccer match on Feb. 1, 2012 between Cairo's Al Ahly club and the local al-Masri team. Many of the victims were fans of the visiting team.

There were 73 defendants in the case. Those not sentenced on Saturday will face a verdict on March 9, the judge said.

Al Ahly fans cheered the verdict after threatening action if the death penalty was not meted out. But Port Said residents were furious that people from their city were held responsible.

(Additional reporting by Yusri Mohamed in Ismailia; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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