Egypt’s military has intervened in the coastal city of Port Said following violent clashes between thousands of protesters and police, which left at least one dead and hundreds injured.
The interior ministry said five policeman were killed by gunfire, one soldier was shot and at least 10 members of the security forces were among those wounded during the clashes on Sunday.
At least 586 protesters were also injured, most suffering from tear gas inhalation while others were wounded by bird shot, according to health official Helmy el-Afani.
Around 5,000 protesters threw rocks and firebombs, prompting riot police to respond with tear gas and bird shot, the latest in a cycle of violence that continues to rock the country two years after Hosni Mubarak’s ouster.
As the clashes escalated, the military intervened by forming a line between the two sides, with protesters climbing the tanks chanting support for the country’s armed forces that, unlike the police, have not cracked down on rioters in the city.
It was the first time the army intervened between police and protesters since the military was dispatched in Port Said in late January.
Many residents of Port Said are demanding retribution for what they claim was excessive police force that led to the deaths of more than 40 civilians in late January. Most were killed during an attempt by some to storm a prison there.
The latest street battles broke out when word emerged that 39 defendants in the case were transferred to prisons outside the city.
A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to discuss the case, said the transfer was necessary to ensure calm before a March 9 court hearing that is expected to issue new verdicts for police officers and other Port Said defendants also charged in connection with the soccer incident.
In Cairo, die-hard soccer fans of Al-Ahly club, known as the Ultras, are also gearing up for the March 9 verdict. They staged protests around the capital on Sunday that blocked traffic going to the airport, and closed off an area around the central bank.
Most of those killed in the Port Said stadium were Al-Ahly Ultras fans.
Al Jazeera’s Mohamed Fawzy, reporting from Cairo, said two cars were burned down in front of the Egyptian Museum near Tahrir Square. Fawzy also reported scattered clashes between police forces trying to open Tahrir Square, and protesters insisting on closing it.
By nightfall, a handful of protesters and riot police continued to clash along a major street near the square, according to the Associated Press.