Protesters in Egypt faced off with police in the capital, Cairo, and other cities for a third straight day Saturday in clashes that have left at least 12 people dead and 2,500 others wounded.
The latest violence was sparked by anger at the failure of Egyptian security forces to prevent a melee and stampede after a football match Wednesday in the city of Port Said that killed 74 people. The protesters were calling for the ruling military council to surrender power to a civilian government.
On Saturday, police in Cairo fired tear gas and birdshot at demonstrators, who were chanting, yelling and throwing stones near the heavily guarded Interior Ministry building. Across the street, the Tax Ministry building was in flames. Ambulances and volunteers carried the wounded away from the fighting through streets littered with debris.
On Friday, the sound of gunfire, tear gas cannisters and rocks smashing against police shields filled the air in and around Cairo’s historic Tahrir Square following evening prayers.
Thousands of Egyptians also took to the streets in Alexandria and the port city of Suez.
Police have arrested 47 suspects for the football match mayhem. The military council’s Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi declared three days of national mourning and vowed to find those responsible.
Egypt’s military-appointed prime minister also said the government has fired the board of Egypt’s football federation and suspended Port Said’s governor and security chiefs.
Lawmakers in Egypt’s newly empowered parliament blamed police inaction for the tragedy and voted to conduct an investigation.
Western media quote survivors of the riot as describing how police negligence had facilitated Wednesday night’s bloody events. Fans reported that security officers stood by as supporters of the winning home team, Al-Masry, attacked those of the top Cairo club, Al-Ahly, stabbing them and throwing them off bleachers. Panicked fans rushed for the exits but were crushed against locked gates.
Sepp Blatter, the head of world football’s governing body, FIFA, sent a letter to Egypt’s football federation demanding a full explanation of the disaster and calling it a “black day for football.” Egypt’s football league has been suspended indefinitely.