Death toll rises as gun battles rage in Egypt

Alastair Beach in Port Said is witness to further violence as the unrest escalates

Port Said

The streets of Port Said were convulsed by gun battles tonight as groups of civilians, some using Kalashnikov machine guns, launched attacks on police stations and an army club.

At least seven people were killed and more than 400 injured during the violence in the city in Egypt’s north east, which began when security forces launched an unprovoked attack on tens of thousands of mourners as they carried the coffins of 33 protesters who were killed during clashes on Saturday.

Machine guns could be heard rattling throughout the centre of the city, as police holed up in one of the main stations exchanged fire with protesters among the gloomy, shuttered-up streets.

Hundreds of civilians, many of whom had been caught up in the earlier attack, were sheltering in side roads as they tried to avoid ricocheting bullets.

Further north, close to the Mediterranean beachfront, black smoke continued to pour into the evening sky from an army club which had been torched by protesters earlier in the day.

It was here just before 1pm that the funeral procession had first come under attack. As tens of thousands of people marched towards the city's main graveyard, tear gas canisters began exploding outside the army club's gates.

It was not immediately clear who initiated the attack, but members of Egypt's central security forces – who routinely launch gas at protesters during civil unrest – were stationed in a nearby compound further west along the road.

Spluttering men and women staggered away from the club and into a side-street. As the procession was re-routed, one middle-aged woman handed out chunks of onion to help mourners combat the effects of gas.

"I've never known anything like this to happen in Egypt before," said Mahmoud Tito, a 20-year-old customs worker who was caught up in the attack. "I never thought the police would attack a funeral".

After finally arriving at the graveyard and burying the dead, the mood among mourners turned from disbelief to anger.

Returning to the army club, groups of young men broke into the compound and torched two of the buildings.

At the police club further along the road, where tear gas canisters were raining down from 100 yards inside the compound, gangs of youths set fire to a third building, sending an enormous plume of charcoal-black smoke into the air.

One protester, wielding a Kalashnikov machine gun, then darted sideways across the deserted main road, unleashing a burst of automatic fire at the police club as he ran. Shortly afterwards another young man took aim using what appeared to be a homemade handgun.

The funeral procession took place after 33 protesters were killed during a previous outbreak of rioting on Saturday.

Locals had tried to storm a prison holding football supporters condemned to death for their role in last year's Port Said stadium disaster, in which 74 fans died.

Many in the city believe that the suspects, who were sentenced on Saturday, are the victims of a political show trial – a view fueled by the fact that all of the security officials also accused of complicity had their verdicts postponed.

In Cairo, meanwhile, police fired teargas at dozens of stone-throwing protesters 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 the new president Mohammad Morsi, elected in June with the support of his Muslim Brotherhood group, of betraying the democratic goals of the revolution.

Analysts say the fighting in Port Said and protests in other parts of the country are a symbol of a deep frustration among many Egyptians over Morsi’s rule.

“These protests are not just about Port Said – there is a crisis of authority in Egypt,” said Fawaz Gerges, Professor of Middle East Politics and International Relations at the LSE.

“If the current social and economic problems remain, it could be hugely problematic for Morsi – ultimately he will live or die on whether he can deliver jobs and other reforms.  If he can’t, Egypt risks being plunged into huge crisis and turmoil.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine