One Dead in Cairo Clashes as Political Turmoil Escalates

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One person was killed in Cairo Monday as clashes between police and protesters raged into a fifth day, and President Mohammed Morsi scrambled to contain deepening divisions with calls for national dialogue.

The unidentified man was killed by birdshot to the head, a police official told AFP, as demonstrators and police lobbed rocks at each other on a bridge and in an underpass leading to Tahrir Square and tear gas hung heavily in the air.

Morsi late on Sunday sought to crack down on violence which has swept Egypt since Friday in which more than 45 people have died, declaring a month-long state of emergency in the provinces of Port Said, Suez and Ismailiya.

In a televised address he also slapped the three provinces with night-time curfews, while calling the opposition -- which accuses him of betraying the revolution that brought him to power -- to a national dialogue at the presidential palace at 6:00 pm (1600 GMT) Monday.

Specifically included in the invitation for talks are the three leaders of National Salvation Front (NSF) opposition coalition, leading dissident and founder of Al-Dustur party Mohamed ElBaradei, former Arab League chief Amr Moussa and presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi.

The NSF was to meet in the early afternoon to consider a response to Morsi's call, Hussein Gohar of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party told AFP.

In a statement late Sunday, Sabbahi's movement expressed its "refusal to participate amid the continuing bloodshed and continuing crimes by the regime against demonstrators".

It said it believes that "any serious call for dialogue needs real guarantees for success, the most important being that the president offers political solutions and security."

ElBaradei said on Twitter that "if the president does not assume responsibility for the bloody events, does not commit to the formation of a salvation government and a committee to amend the constitution, all dialogue is a waste of time."

The unrest highlights the deep split between Morsi's mainly Islamist allies, and an opposition of leftists, liberals, Christians and deeply religious Muslims calling for freedoms and the separation of the state from religion.

It also underscores the long-standing tensions between protesters and a police force long accused of human rights abuses.

Morsi's television address, in which he appeared both flustered and angry, came after a second day of rioting rocked Port Said sparked by death sentences handed down Saturday against supporters of a local football club Al-Masry over stadium violence last year that killed 74 people.

At least 46 people have lost their lives in the Suez Canal cities in three days, with Port Said the worst hit with 37 fatalities. Hundreds have also been injured in the violence.

On Sunday, as thousands marched in the funeral procession of Port Said residents who died in clashes a day earlier, chanting "Our city is being hit by the interior ministry" and "Down with Brotherhood rule!" bursts of gunfire scattered mourners amid chaotic scenes that brought on more rioting.

Crowds attempted to storm three police stations in the Port Said, while others looted and torched an army social club, security officials said.

Unrest also erupted on Sunday in Suez, another canal city, where protesters surrounded a police station, lobbed Molotov cocktails at security forces and blocked the road leading to the capital, security officials said.

Morsi warned that he was ready to take further measures unless there was an end to the deadly unrest that has swept Egypt since Friday, when protests to mark the second anniversary of the anti-Mubarak revolt turned violent.

A few hundred people took to the streets of Ismailiya just after Morsi's announcement and clashed with police, an AFP correspondent said. A medical source said six people had been injured.

Egypt was under a state of emergency for more than three decades in the wake of the assassination of president Anwar Sadat in 1981 and until May last year, a month before Morsi was elected.

Ending the state of emergency -- which allowed authorities to detain people without charge and try them in emergency security courts -- was a key demand of protesters who toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Comments 1
Missing bigjohn 28 January 2013, 18:02

The Egyptian people will not allow you to turn Egypt into a religious state. Also, the Syrian people will not allow the rebel opposition to turn Syria into a religious Sunni state even if it means allying themselves with the Assad regime.