From killing to kidnapping: Egypt riots rage
Saturday 04 February 2012
The fury unleashed by the deaths of 74 people at a football
match in Port Said spread across Egypt yesterday, with at least six
people killed in rioting in Cairo and Suez in the east, and 1,500
In the capital, hundreds of protesters hurled stones at ranks of riot police camped just 50 yards from the Interior Ministry. One civilian was shot dead at close range just in front of the ministry, the hated symbol of Mubarak-era abuses which many blame for the bloodbath in Port Said on Wednesday. A policeman was reportedly among those killed in yesterday's clashes.
Two civilians were killed in Suez when they were struck by live ammunition as police tried to prevent a crowd from breaking into the local police station, health officials said.
The rioting yesterday in Cairo was led by a group known as Ultras, hardcore football supporters whose members were among those killed when hooligans stormed the pitch in Port Said. They joined thousands of other activists who descended on the capital demanding an end to the ruling military council.
"What happened on Wednesday night was a crime," said Alaa Ali Osman, who travelled hundreds of miles from the Red Sea coast to Tahrir Square yesterday. "It wasn't an accident, it was planned."
There was further speculation in the Egyptian press yesterday about the causes of the disaster. An article in the Egypt Independent, an online paper, quoted residents from Port Said who said large numbers of unidentified "infiltrators" gained access to the stadium before the match started. Football supporters from the home side said many of those present on the night were not regular fans – a claim backed up by some of the Ultras targeted during the riot.
It feeds into a narrative being pursued by some MPs and commentators, who allege that police deliberately allowed the disaster to happen, or even orchestrated it by deploying networks of thugs and criminals.
There has been little evidence to back up these claims and the Interior Minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, yesterday blamed fans for the disaster. Nevertheless, the conspiracy theories have stoked further violence and anger in a country struggling with deteriorating security since the toppling of former president Hosni Mubarak in February last year.
Elsewhere yesterday, in the Sinai Peninsula, two female American tourists and their Egyptian guide were kidnapped by Bedouin gunmen. The trio were snatched near St Catherine's Monastery, the pilgrimage site at the foot of Mount Sinai, as they made their way back to Sharm el-Sheikh. Tribal leaders in the region later negotiated their release, but the incident will further harm efforts to entice tourists back to Egypt.
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