Egyptian protesters defy curfew, attack police stations

Shaimaa Fayed and Yusri Mohamed
Reuters Middle East
Egyptian protesters clash with riot police near Cairo's Tahrir Square on January 28, 2013
Egyptian protesters clash with riot police near Cairo's Tahrir Square on January 28, 2013. Violence gripped Egypt for a fifth straight day on Monday as Egypt's main opposition bloc turned down an invitation to hold talks with President Mohamed Morsi and called instead for fresh mass protests

* Death toll in five days of violence now at 52

* Curfew imposed on Port Said, Ismailia and Suez

* President Mursi calls for dialogue

* Sceptical opposition spurns invitation

CAIRO/ISMAILIA, Egypt, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Egyptian

protesters defied a nighttime curfew in restive towns along the

Suez Canal, attacking police stations and ignoring emergency

rule imposed by Islamist President Mohamed Mursi to end days of

clashes that have killed at least 52 people.

At least two men died in overnight fighting in the canal

city of Port Said in the latest outbreak of violence unleashed

last week on the eve of the anniversary of the 2011 revolt that

brought down autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Political opponents spurned a call by Mursi for talks on

Monday to try to end the violence.

Instead, huge crowds of protesters took to the streets in

Cairo, Alexandria and in the three Suez Canal cities - Port

Said, Ismailia and Suez - where Mursi imposed emergency rule and

a curfew on Sunday.

"Down, down with Mohamed Mursi! Down, down with the state of

emergency!" crowds shouted in Ismailia. In Cairo, flames lit up

the night sky as protesters set police vehicles ablaze.

In Port Said, men attacked police stations after dark. A

security source said some police and troops were injured. A

medical source said two men were killed and 12 injured in the

clashes, including 10 with gunshot wounds.

"The people want to bring down the regime," crowds chanted

in Alexandria. "Leave means go, and don't say no!"

The demonstrators accuse Mubarak's successor Mursi of

betraying the two-year-old revolution. Mursi and his supporters

accuse the protesters of seeking to overthrow Egypt's first ever

democratically elected leader through undemocratic means.

Since Mubarak was toppled, Islamists have won two

referendums, two parliamentary elections and a presidential

vote. But that legitimacy has been challenged by an opposition

that accuses Mursi of imposing a new form of authoritarianism,

and punctuated by repeated waves of unrest that have prevented a

return to stability in the most populous Arab state.


The army has already been deployed in Port Said and Suez and

the government agreed a measure to let soldiers arrest civilians

as part of the state of emergency.

The instability unnerves Western capitals, where officials

worry about the direction of powerful regional player that has a

peace deal with Israel. The United States condemned the

bloodshed and called on Egyptian leaders to make clear violence

is not acceptable. ID:nW1E8MD01C].

In Cairo on Monday, police fired volleys of teargas at

stone-throwing protesters near Tahrir Square, cauldron of the

anti-Mubarak uprising. Demonstrators stormed into the downtown

Semiramis Intercontinental hotel and burned two police vehicles.

A 46-year-old bystander was killed by a gunshot early on

Monday, a security source said. It was not clear who fired.

"We want to bring down the regime and end the state that is

run by the Muslim Brotherhood," said Ibrahim Eissa, a

26-year-old cook, protecting his face from teargas wafting

towards him.

The political unrest in the Suez Canal cities has been

exacerbated by street violence linked to death penalties imposed

on soccer supporters convicted of involvement in stadium rioting

in Port Said a year ago.

Mursi's invitation to opponents to hold a national dialogue

with Islamists on Monday was spurned by the main opposition

National Salvation Front coalition, which rejected the offer as

"cosmetic and not substantive".

The only liberal politician who attended, Ayman Nour, told

Egypt's al-Hayat channel after the meeting ended late on Monday

that attendees agreed to meet again in a week.

He said Mursi had promised to look at changes to the

constitution requested by the opposition but did not consider

the opposition's request for a government of national unity.

The president announced the emergency measures on television

on Sunday: "The protection of the nation is the responsibility

of everyone. We will confront any threat to its security with

force and firmness within the remit of the law," Mursi said.

His demeanour in the address infuriated his opponents, not

least when he wagged a finger at the camera.

Some activists said Mursi's measures to try to impose

control on the turbulent streets could backfire.

"Martial law, state of emergency and army arrests of

civilians are not a solution to the crisis," said Ahmed Maher of

the April 6 movement that helped galvanise the 2011 uprising.

"All this will do is further provoke the youth. The solution has

to be a political one that addresses the roots of the problem."

(Additional reporting by Edmund Blair and Yasmine Saleh in

Cairo and Abdelrahman Youssef in Alexandria; Writing by Edmund

Blair, Yasmine Saleh and Peter Graff)

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