CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian security forces on Saturday fired tear gas from armored trucks at protesters demanding an end to military rule, as anger over a deadly soccer riot fueled a third day of clashes that have killed at least 12 people.
The violence followed a melee and stampede after a soccer match Wednesday in the Mediterranean city of Port Said in which 74 people died in the world’s worst soccer violence in 15 years. Protesters accuse the security forces of failing to prevent the bloodshed.
After two days of running street battles, clashes broke out again in downtown Cairo Saturday as demonstrators marched on the Interior Ministry. Security forces fired volleys of tear gas at rock-throwing protesters calling for the army to relinquish power. The ministry has been a frequent target for the protesters because it is responsible for the widely distrusted police.
In a bid to end the violence, a group of lawmakers and public figures said they met with Interior Ministry officials to try to negotiate a cease-fire. But security forces disregarded a plan to hold their fire, and lobbed tear gas and fired birdshot on a group of mediators attempting to convince protesters to clear a street leading to the ministry.
“The continued clashes are a way for the ministry to distract attention from the real demands for the military leaders to step down,” said Bassem Kamel, a lawmaker who tried to negotiate the truce.
“We know the protesters aren’t angels and come with a lot of anger from what happened in Port Said, but it has made people want to stand up to the military rulers,” he added.
Some of the protesters themselves urged for an end to the violence and called on people to leave the Interior Ministry area.
“If you love Egypt, return to the (Tahrir) square,” chanted protesters along the side streets of the ministry on Saturday.
Police cordoned off several streets with lines of riot police and barbed wire, pushing protesters further back from the ministry.
Rights groups and several newly elected members of parliament have called on the country’s military leader, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who served as President Hosni Mubarak’s defense minister for 20 years and took power after Mubarak’s ouster last February, to immediately transfer of power to a civilian administration.
Egyptian presidential hopeful and ex-Arab League chief Amr Moussa echoed those calls Saturday, saying the situation in the country was “very frightening” and that the military needed to open up presidential campaigning in March and step down in favor of civilian authorities by April 30.
“The time has come to transfer power to a civilian administration which will promote stability and the achievement of the revolutionary goals,” Moussa said in a statement carried by the state-run news agency, MENA.
Some of the worst violence in the latest unrest has been in the port city of Suez, where protesters set up cordons outside the police headquarters to ban people from demonstrating around it and keep the calm.
On Friday, security forces in Suez opened fire on a crowd of several thousand outside the police headquarters. A total of seven people were killed, a police official said Saturday. Egypt’s state-new agency MENA reported the victims ranged in age between 18 and 21, and that the most recent victim died of a gunshot wound Saturday that he sustained the previous day.
By Saturday morning, five protesters were also reported dead in Cairo after security forces fired tear gas and birdshot. The death toll was provided by the security official and a volunteer doctor.
Abdolheliem Mahmoud, the doctor at a field hospital in Tahrir Square, said the latest victims died Saturday from birdshot to the head or chest in overnight clashes. Another protester was in critical condition, he said.
Field hospitals were set up in streets near the Interior Ministry to assist hundreds of cases of suffocation from tear gas inhalation on Friday.
The Health Ministry said Saturday that 2,500 people have been injured since the violence began on Thursday.
Also, a security officer died after an armored police vehicle ran him over in the mayhem outside the ministry Friday, the security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with police regulations.
The riot after the soccer match in Port Said has shocked Egyptians.
There have been accusations that plainclothes officers took part in the melee, and some have alleged that riot police intentionally allowed the bloodshed at the stadium to happen to retaliate against die-hard soccer fans of the visiting team Al-Ahly, known as Ultras, who played a key role in clashes with security forces during the uprising that toppled Mubarak.
Lawmakers have accused the interior minister of “negligence.”
The violence in Port Said began after home team Al-Masry pulled off a 3-1 upset win over Cairo’s Al-Ahly, Egypt’s most powerful club. Al-Masry fans stormed the field, rushing past lines of police to attack Al-Ahly fans.
Survivors have said police stood by doing nothing as Al-Masry fans attacked Al-Ahly supporters, stabbing them, undressing them and throwing them off bleachers. Others died from the stampede down a narrow corridor after the stadium’s gate, which was locked from the outside, was forced open by the crowd.
Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri said he sacked the Egyptian Soccer Federation’s board on Thursday and referred its members for questioning by prosecutors about the violence. To keep in line with international soccer federation guidelines, which do not give el-Ganzouri the right to dissolve the board, its eight members formally submitted their resignations on Saturday.
Associated Press writer Sarah El Deeb contributed to this report.
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