CAIRO, 19 JUNE: Clashes have erupted between supporters and opponents of Egypt’s president and his Muslim Brotherhood over his appointment of new Islamist governors, some in areas where opponents are strong.
The protests yesterday signalled increasing tension in the deeply polarised nation ahead of mass protests demanding the ouster of the president, Mohammed Morsi, who marks his first year in power 30 June.
On Sunday, Morsi appointed 17 new governors, including seven members of the Brotherhood and one from an ex-militant group to rule the ancient city of Luxor. That appointment outraged Luxor residents, as the governor’s group claimed responsibility for a 1997 massacre of dozens of tourists there.
Egypt’s Minister of Tourism was considering resignation over the Luxor appointment, according to Tourism Ministry spokeswoman Rasha el-Azzazzi.
Demonstrators sealed off gates of governors’ offices around the country.
Security forces fired tear gas to separate the two sides in the Nile Delta city of Tanta in Gharbiya province. Fighting broke out after opposition protesters chained the gate to the new governor’s office in a symbolic rejection of his appointment. Dozens were injured, including journalists, according to the deputy health minister in Tanta, Mohammed Sharshar.
The new governor, Ahmed el-Baylie, a leading Muslim Brotherhood member and chief recruiter, managed to enter his office after supporters, armed with homemade guns, swords and knives, clashed with rock-throwing protesters to clear them away. Witnesses said an activist took off her shoes and hit the governor in the head, prompting his supporters to attack her. Protesters then tried to set fire to the offices of the Muslim Brotherhood’s party in the city, hurling firebombs and smashing the building’s doors, as well as damaging vehicles believed to belong to Brotherhood members, according to witnesses.
A private daily, Al-Masry Al-Youm, reported that protesters chased Muslim Brotherhood supporters in the streets, snatched three of them and dragged them down. In Mahallah al-Koubra, protesters blocked a mosque where a Muslim Brotherhood cleric was scheduled to visit and clashed with Brotherhood members.