Egyptian President Cancels Summit Participation amid Turmoil

Egyptian President Cancels Summit Participation amid Turmoil
# 27 January 2013 01:18 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi will not travel to Ethiopia to take part in Sunday’s African summit due to ongoing unrest in the country, presidential spokesman Yasser Ali said on Saturday, APA reports quoting RIA Novosti.

“The Egyptian delegation at the summit will be led by foreign minister Mohamed Amr,” Ali said, adding that the head of the state “currently has to deal with the unrest that began on Friday in several Egyptian cities.”

Earlier in the day, Morsi recalled his Prime Minister Hisham Kandil from the Davos Economic Forum in Switzerland in reaction to the violence across the country, according to the Marsavi website. The president also held an emergency meeting of the country’s National Defense Council to discuss ways to quell the violence that gripped at least three cities.

The council said in a statement aired by the state TV later in the day that it might declare the state of emergency in violence-hit areas.

Dozens have died and hundreds have been injured in clashes between police and soccer fans in Egyptian cities of Port Said, Ismailia and Suez. Two police officers and 28 civilians so far have been killed and some 300 injured in Port Said only, according to head of Port Said hospitals, Abdel-Rahman Farah, quoted by Ahram Online.

The violence erupted on Friday after a court handed down death sentences to all 21 defendants in a trial that is part of the high-profile case of the so-called “Port Said tragedy,” Egypt’s worst-ever football fans clash and stampede that left at least 72 people dead and another 254 injured last February.

According to Ahram Online, clashes between angry protesters, armed with rocks and firearms and security forces continued on Saturday evening in Port Said. Despite troops deployment, protestors do not give up attempts to storm the city prison and release the 21 fans sentenced to death. Crowds have also started gathering outside the city morgue and courts. A police station and a police dormitory were looted and set on fire.

Angry Port Said residents have also blocked a highway to Ismailia. Egypt's railway authority said that its trains would not travel to Port Said for security reasons and will instead stop at Ismailia, a major station close to the violence-hit city, the portal said.

Troops, tanks and armored vehicles were deployed in Ismailia “to restore order and maintain security of the city’s main administrative buildings, including the provincial administration,” an army spokesman told journalists late on Saturday.

However, the city’s port, one of Egypt’s largest, continues to operate in normal regime, despite protestors’ attempts to break into its territory. The Greek Foreign Ministry said in a statement that shots were fired by unidentified gunmen at the Nisos Rodos passenger ship during a routine check in Port Said. The ship left the port immediately, and “its crew and passengers are safe,” the statement reads.

In Suez, protestors set fire to a police station and raided it, seizing firearms and releasing all detainees. The crowd has also set the city’s main firefighting station ablaze. So far, deaths of nine people have been confirmed in Suez.

On Friday and Saturday police and security services “detained about 130 people on suspicion of instigating riots in various provinces,” a spokesman for Egypt’s foreign ministry said.