At Least 50 Hurt in Egypt Protests; Morsi Mulls Army Takeover of Port Said

After days of deadly clashes, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi considers giving the military full control of Suez Canal city; violence was sparked after death sentences were dealt over deadly 2012 soccer riot.

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Egyptian security forces battled stone-throwing youths in the Suez Canal city Port Said on Tuesday while in Cairo police took to the streets to protest, reflecting a country beset by discontent over a host of grievances.

By far the most serious trouble was in Port Said, at the canal's northern entrance, where 50 people were wounded in clashes between police and hundreds of protesters in a third day of unrest.

Security forces shot into the air and fired tear gas at the protesters gathered in front of a local government building in the city. One young man was shot in the head and was in a serious condition, said Helmi al-Afni, undersecretary at the Ministry of Health in Port Said. A Reuters witness said he had seen at least three people who appeared unconscious.

"The police are thugs," the protesters chanted. "We'll give our blood and souls for you, Port Said." Live footage on Al Jazeera's Egypt channel showed dozens of
men running and throwing rocks as black smoke rose in front of a building's charred facade. Tear gas canisters streaked through the air.

Some 74 people lost their lives in incidents at a football match last month. An Egyptian court sentenced 21 people to death after they were involved in a riot following the football match. The latest incidents in Port Said erupted as 39 inmates were transferred out of the city.

Mohammed Morsi met with his security chief and top military officers earlier Tuesday to discuss pulling out the police force and putting the military in charge to defuse the cycle of violence that has gripped the city, officials from the military and the president's office said.

The latest round of rioting and violence in Port Said, which erupted on Sunday, has killed at least three civilians and three policemen and injured hundreds.

"The presidency is considering this option after relations between the security apparatus and the people of Port Said deteriorated," said one of the officials. He added that the idea behind the proposal is that once the army takes control, it would presumably not get into confrontation with protesters.

Egypt has been in political turmoil since a popular uprising ousted Hosni Mubarak as president in 2011. His Islamist successor, Mohamed Morsi, has struggled to restore security since his election in June.

Joblessness worsened by an economic crisis, anger at police brutality and fuel price rises have helped fuel the unrest. Port Said has seen waves of violent demonstrations since January over the detention of dozens of people in connection with a soccer riot last year in which more than 70 died.

At least six people have been killed in the latest wave of protests in the Mediterranean city, including three policemen. Hundreds more have been wounded, scores of them from gunshot wounds and live bullets, according to medical officials.

About 60 people died during street protests across Egypt between January 25, the anniversary of the 2011 uprising, to February 4. Many of the demonstrators were calling for Morsi's resignation, accusing him and his Muslim Brotherhood of trying to monopolize power.

In a sign of the broader discontent afflicting the country, dozens of police officers blocked a major road in Cairo to protest about the killing of a colleague by an unknown attacker while he was investigating a bank robbery earlier on Tuesday, the state news agency said.

A protester, opposed to Egyptian President Morsi, shouting slogans at riot police in Port Said, March 5, 2013.Credit: Reuters

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