Cairo: Protesters threw petrol bombs and stones at police officers who responded by firing teargas in Egypt’s Port Saeed on Monday, a day after five people were killed during demonstrations in the Suez Canal city.
Violent protests have erupted in the Suez Canal city since January over the detention of dozens of people after a soccer riot in the city last year in which 70 people were killed.
On Monday, hundreds of demonstrators gathered in front of a local government office to protest against the detentions and set fire to two police cars, a witness said. Security forces fired teargas to disperse them.
Thousands of residents rallied in a funeral procession for those killed, as military police deployed to secure the gathering.
Five people were killed in clashes between anti-government protesters and police in the Suez Canal city, said Egyptian authorities on Monday, raising to 47 the death toll from violence in the restive city in a month.
Around 580 people were also injured in the clashes as angry protesters attempted to storm the Port Saeed Security Directorate late Sunday, added the authorities.
The unrest, the latest in a series of violent incidents in Port Saeed, was sparked by police’s relocation of 39 prisoners to a jail outside the city ahead of a court verdict due on March 9 on deadly soccer violence that occurred more than a year ago.
In January, 42 people were killed in clashes with security forces in Port Saeed following the sentencing of 21 local people to death for complicity in the February 2012 soccer rioting.
An army commander, identified as Col Sherif Juda, was injured outside the Port Saeed Security Directorate during the clashes between the protesters and security forces, a military spokesman said on Monday.
Juda was leading an army unit to disengage the police and protesters outside the building when he was shot in the leg, added the spokesman. He is reported in stable condition at a military hospital in Cairo.
The army has taken over securing key government buildings in Port Saeed in the aftermath of the late January violence.
The city has been observing a general strike for three weeks to protest what its residents say are police brutality and marginalisation from the Islamist-backed government of President Mohammad Mursi.
In a sign of backlash against Mursi, many people of Port Saeed have in the past few days asked, in symbolic power of attorney, the army to rule the country.
The army had governed Egypt for 16 months before handing over power in June last year to Mursi, who is the country’s first democratically elected president.
Fighting throughout the day on Sunday killed two policemen and three civilians as protesters pelted police forces with rocks and fire bombs and the force responded with tear gas, and birdshots, while military troops got caught in the middle trying to stop the violence, according to witnesses.
Thousands gathered outside a city mosque and performed prayers for the dead on Monday. They then began processions carrying the coffins to the cemetery, chanting “the martyr is the beloved of God” and waving black, white and green flags of Port Saeed, that have become a symbol of the city’s revolt against the government.
Military police cars roamed the area and military armoured vehicles lined up on streets leading to the cemetery.
“We want retribution,” the gathering chanted. “It is now war between us and you, Interior Ministry.”
One protester raised a banner reading: “I came to die for freedom, Port Saeed.”
The fighting on Sunday prompted the military to intervene to break up the clashes, the first such intervention by the army since the military was deployed in Port Saeed in late January when tension between protesters and police first erupted.
Witnesses described a tense scene between the police and the military during the clashes. Army officers tried but failed to negotiate an end to the fighting. At one point, the military got out of the way as protesters clashed with the police, but when soldiers got hit by much of the tear gas and the projectiles flying through the air, the troops fired in the air in the direction of the police forces to break up the street fights.
With additional inputs from AP