Mass demos called as anger rages in Egypt

2012-02-03 11:39
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Cairo - Egyptian activists called for mass protests in Cairo on Friday to demand the ouster of the ruling military council, target of raging anger over the deaths of 74 people in football-related violence.

Demonstrators were to stage marches from mosques across Cairo after noon prayers towards parliament, 28 pro-democracy groups said in a statement on the Internet.

The activists said demonstrators would demand the immediate resignation of military council, which took power when an uprising toppled veteran president Hosni Mubarak last year.

They accuse the military of mismanagement of the fragile transition, and blame it for the deadly violence on Wednesday in the northern city of Port Said at a football match.

The tragedy sparked protests in several cities overnight which deteriorated into violent clashes with police.

Medics said two protesters were shot dead in the canal city of Suez and more than 30 people were injured.

On Thursday, more than 600 were injured when thousands protested in Cairo, clashing with police as they tried to reach the interior ministry, which they say is responsible for not preventing the football violence.

Egyptians have become increasingly angry with the ruling military, which they accuse of failing to manage the country and of human rights abuses.

Civilian rule

For months, they have taken to the streets to demand the ouster of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and its chief Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi - Mubarak's defence minister for two decades.

The SCAF has repeatedly pledged to cede full powers to civilian rule when a president is elected by the end of June.

It has pointed to the parliamentary elections as proof of its intention to step out of politics.

But widespread suspicions that the military aims to retain some powers after the transition were fuelled by comments from US former president Jimmy Carter after he held talks with the generals in Cairo last month.

"When I met with military leaders, my impression was they want to have some special privilege in the government after the president is elected," Carter told reporters after the meeting.

The fresh surge of anger against the military was sparked by clashes between fans of Port Said home team Al-Masry and Cairo's Al-Ahly, which erupted at the final whistle of Wednesday's match.

Al-Masry fans invaded the pitch after their team beat the visitors 3-1, throwing rocks, bottles and fireworks at Al-Ahly supporters, causing chaos and panic as players and fans fled in all directions, witnesses said.

The violence marked one of the deadliest incidents in football history, and came amid claims by witnesses the security forces did little to prevent the rioting.

"This was not a sport accident"

"This happened as security services stood by and did nothing, like they did in previous events, and perhaps they even contributed to the massacre," wrote Ibrahim Mansur, a columnist for the independent daily Al-Tahrir.

"This happened under the military council whose ouster the people are demanding, and who has proved that it is a failure," he said.

On Thursday, central Cairo was awash with demonstrators trying to reach the interior ministry to protest the lack of police intervention in the previous night's violence.

Black-clad riot police fired tear gas at the protesters, with state television reporting 628 people injured in the clashes, mostly from tear gas inhalation.

"They know how to protect a ministry but not a stadium," one angry protester told AFP Thursday.

"This was not a sports accident, this was a military massacre!" the crowds chanted.

Calm returned to the city later in the night but groups of protesters continued to mingle near the interior ministry and in the emblematic Tahrir Square.

Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzuri told an emergency session of parliament on the tragedy that the Egyptian football association's director and board had been sacked, as had Port Said's security chief.

Ganzuri added that the Port Said governor had also offered his resignation, and that it had been accepted.

Read more on:    hosni mubarak  |  hussein tantawi  |  egypt  |  north africa  |  egypt soccer riots

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