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.”

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
nflAtlanta Falcons can't count and don't know what the UK looks like
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg
music

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

News
The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions
News
news

Powerful images of strays taken moments before being put down

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

Norwegian Speaking Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + competitive OTE: SThree: Progressive in Manchester...

IT Support Analyst - London - £22,000

£20000 - £22000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chel...

Learning Support Assistants-Nantwich area

£8 - £9 per hour: Randstad Education Chester: We are currently recruiting for ...

Primary Teachers-Northwich area

£85 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Primary Teachers- Northwich Ar...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London