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Mass Funeral Held in Egypt after Riots Kill 37

27 Jan 2013

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Egyptian protesters clash with security forces

Tens of thousands of mourners poured into the streets of the restive Egyptian city of Port Said on Sunday for a mass funeral for most of the 37 people killed in rioting a day earlier, chanting slogans against Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

Violence erupted briefly when some in the crowd fired guns and police responded with volleys of tear gas, witnesses said. State television reported 110 were injured.

''We are very worried about what may happen after the burial,'' said local youth activist Rasha Hamouda, noting the city was fraught with tension, reports The Associated Press.

The violence in the city, about 140 miles northeast of Cairo, broke out on Saturday after a court on Saturday convicted and sentenced 21 defendants to death for their roles in a mass soccer riot in a Port Said stadium on Feb. 1, 2012 that left 74 people dead. Most of those sentenced to death were local soccer fans from Port Said. The 21 were convicted on murder charges and the court is to rule on the remainder of the 73 defendants in March.

The riots stemmed mostly from animosity between police and die-hard Egyptian soccer fans, known as Ultras, who have become highly politicized. The Ultras frequently confront police and were also part of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak's regime two years ago.

They were also at the forefront of protests against the military rulers who took over from Mubarak and are now again on the front lines of protests against the Morsi, the country's first freely elected leader.

A prominent Islamist leader delivered a thinly veiled warning that Islamist groups would set up militia-like vigilante groups to protect public and state property against attacks.

Addressing a news conference, Tareq el-Zomr of the once-jihadist Gamaa Islamiya, said:

''If Security forces don't achieve security, it will be the right of the Egyptian people and we at the forefront to set up popular committees to protect private and public property and counter the aggression on innocent citizens.''

The threat by el-Zomr was accompanied by his charge that the mostly secular and liberal opposition was responsible for the deadly violence of the past few days, setting the stage for possible bloody clashes between protesters and Islamist militiamen. The opposition denies the charge.

There was also a funeral in Cairo for two policemen killed in the Port Said violence a day earlier. Several policemen grieving for their colleagues heckled Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim, who is in charge of the force, when he arrived for their funeral, according to witnesses. The angry officers screamed at the minister that he was only at the funeral for the TV cameras - a highly unusual show of dissent in Egypt, where the police force maintains military-like discipline.

Ibrahim hurriedly left and the funeral proceeded without him.

Tags: Sports, World, Mass, FUNERAL, Egypt, RIOTS

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