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Egypt in show of defiance against Islamist leader

Egypt in show of defiance against Islamist leader

January 29th, 2013 in News

An Egyptian protester throws a tear gas canister back at riot police during clashes Monday near Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt.

Photo by The Associated Press /News Tribune.

CAIRO (AP) - Protesters battled police for hours in Cairo on Monday and thousands marched through Egypt's three Suez Canal cities in direct defiance of a night-time curfew and state of emergency, handing a blow to the Islamist President Mohammed Morsi's attempts to contain five days of spiraling political violence.

Nearly 60 people have been killed in the wave of unrest, clashes, rioting and protests that have touched cities across the country but have hit the hardest in the canal cities, where residents have virtually risen up in outright revolt.

The latest death came on Monday in Cairo, where a protester died of gunshot wounds as youths hurling stones battled all day and into the night with police firing tear gas near Qasr el-Nil Bridge, a landmark over the Nile next to major hotels.

In nearby Tahrir Square, protesters set fire to a police armored personnel carrier, celebrating as it burned in scenes reminiscent of the 2011 revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak.

Angry and at times screaming and wagging his finger, Morsi on Sunday declared a 30-day state of emergency and a nighttime curfew on the three Suez Canal cities of Suez, Ismailiya and Port Said and their provinces of the same names. He said he had instructed the police to deal "firmly and forcefully" with the unrest and threatened to do more if security was not restored.

But when the 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew began Monday evening, crowds marched through the streets of Port Said, beating drums and chanting, "Erhal, erhal," or "Leave, leave" - a chant that first rang out during the 18-day uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011 but is now directed at Morsi.

In Suez and Ismailiya, thousands in the streets after curfew chanted against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group from which he hails. In Suez, residents let off fireworks that lit the night sky.

On Morsi's orders over the weekend, army troops backed with tanks and armored vehicles have deployed in Port Said and Suez - the two cities worst hit by the violence - to restore security, but they did not intervene to enforce the curfew on Monday night.

The commander of the Third Field Army in charge of Suez, Maj. Gen. Osama Askar, said his troops would not use force to ensure compliance.

Army troops in Port Said also stood by and watched as residents ignored the curfew.