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Egypt violence persists despite emergency moves

By Hamza Hendawi

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Jan. 28 2013 9:47 a.m. MST

Egyptian protesters perform prayers on Qasr Al-Nile bridge leading to Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Jan. 28, 2013. Health and security officials say a protester has been killed in clashes between rock-throwing demonstrators and police near Tahrir Square in central Cairo. The officials say the protester died Monday on the way to the hospital after being shot.

Khalil Hamra, Associated Press

CAIRO — Protesters and riot police clashed in Cairo and the riot-torn city of Port Said as Egypt's political violence stretched into a fifth day on Monday, despite efforts by the Islamist president to contain the crisis by imposing a state of emergency in three provinces.

At least 56 people have been killed in the wave of violence, which has led to the military deploying in Port Said and another city along the Suez Canal and threatened to shake the control of President Mohammed Morsi's government.

The main opposition coalition rejected Morsi's call for national dialogue to resolve the crisis, demanding that he first make deep concessions to break what opponents call the monopoly that Islamists have tried to impose on power. The National Salvation Front said it wouldn't join any dialogue until Morsi forms a national unity government and begins work to rewrite parts of the Islamist-backed constitution.

Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, which forms the backbone of his rule, have instead tried to take a tougher approach. Angry and at times screaming and wagging his finger, Morsi went on national TV Sunday night and declared a 30-day state of emergency in the Suez Canal provinces of Port Said, Ismailiya and Suez, which are named after their main cities. A nighttime curfew goes into effect in those areas Monday — though protesters are likely to challenge it.

In Port Said — the hardest hit city so far with at least 44 people killed in clashes over the weekend — thousands poured out into the streets Monday for the funeral of six people killed during clashes the day before. They offered prayers on the dead at the city's Mariam mosque and marched with the bodies to the city's cemetery about a mile away.

Two army helicopters hovered above the funeral.

Clashes erupted in the evening in the al-Arab district of the city, and a security forces' armored personnel carried opened fire, one witness, Ibrahim Ezzideen, told The Associated Press. He did not have word on casualties. The same district saw heavy fighting the past two days.

In Cairo, hundreds of young, stone-throwing protesters fought pitched battles Monday with riot police near Qasr el-Nil Bridge, a landmark bridge over the Nile River next to major hotels. One protester died of gunshot wounds, according to health and security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to talk to the press.

White clouds of tear gas hung over the area from early on Monday morning and at times wafted across the river to the upscale island of Zamalek and the leafy district of Garden City. The fighting was reminiscent of scenes two years ago to the day, when police and protesters battered each other on the same bridge in the most violent day of the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Anger over Morsi's latest measures was evident at the site of Monday's clashes, near Tahrir Square.

"People died to gain their freedom, social justice, bread. Now after 29 years of the despotic Mubarak, we're ruled by a worse regime: religious fascist, more dangerous," said Mohammed Saber, a 65-year old engineer who came to watch the clashes with his wife and children.

The wave of violence began Thursday and accelerated the following day, which fell on the two-year anniversary of the start of the anti-Mubarak uprising. Protests Friday that turned to clashes around the country left 11 dead, most of them in Suez.

The next day, riots exploded in Port Said after a court convicted and sentenced to death 21 defendants — mostly locals — for a mass soccer riot in the city's main stadium a year ago. Rioters attacked police stations, clashed with security forces in the streets and shots and tear gas were fired at protester funerals in mayhem that left 44 people dead over the weekend.

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