At least 30 people were killed and 312 were wounded in Egypt on Saturday, after 21 Port Said soccer fans were sentenced to death over a violent stadium riot last year.
The violence came one day after protest rallies against President Mohamed Morsi on the second anniversary of Egypt’s uprising against predecessor Hosni Mubarak, in which nine were killed.
This is the worst crisis Morsi has faced since his election.
Just minutes after the sentencing in Cairo of the soccer fans, blamed for the deaths of 74 people during post-match clashes last February, protesters rampaged through the city, attacking police stations and burning tires.
Relatives of the condemned fought security forces in an attempt to storm the Port Said prison where they are being held. The attackers used automatic weapons. Police responded with tear gas.
(In Cairo, on the other hand, there were cries of joy at the verdict, as women ululated and relatives of the February victims hugged each other and shouted “Allahu Akbar.”)
Crowds of protesters stormed two Port Said police stations exchanging heavy gunfire with the cops. Ambulances were running all day long, rushing the injured to hospitals. Local mosques asked worshippers to donate blood.
The army finally overtook the Port Said prison, the banks and the courts, to prevent their falling into the hands of rioters.
Armed Forces spokesperson Ahmed Ali said that troops from the Second Field Army are controlling all the main areas around Port Said’s main prison, where the defendants from the Port Said trial are being held.
Clashes also broke out in Suez, on the canal where eight people were killed on Friday.
Protesters tried to storm the main Suez police station, but were stopped by police with tear gas.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s opposition parties are planning to boycott the upcoming parliamentary vote, unless Morsi manages to calm the violence.
The National Salvation Front, comprised of parties opposing the Islamist president, are demanding a “national salvation” government, otherwise it would boycott the elections.
Saturday’s violence came after a day of clashes that marked the revolution’s second anniversary—at least nine people were killed and 530 injured.
Tens of thousands on Friday protested against Morsi, accusing him of failing the revolution and being nothing but an agent of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Early on Saturday, Morsi Twitted an appeal for calm that asked “citizens to adhere to the values of the revolution, express opinions freely and peacefully and renounce violence.”
Protesters in the canal city of Ismailiya stormed government buildings on Friday, and burned down the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters.
The Muslim Brotherhood accused opposition groups of “spreading sabotage.”
In a statement Saturday, the Brotherhood said that the opposition’s silence after attacks against its offices and Freedom and Justice Party headquarters amounted to them “gloating over Egypt and Egyptians,” and accused opposition groups of supporting such attacks.
The group also accused the media of misleading the public, “spreading hatred” against the regime and inciting “sabotage.”
In Cairo, police fired tear gas at protesters outside the presidential palace.