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Wave of Violence Sweeps Egypt After Two-Year Anniversary of Uprising

January 28, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And we turn to the upheaval in Egypt, coming two years after the revolt that led to the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak.

Jeffrey Brown has our story.

JEFFREY BROWN: Political violence ravaged Egypt for a fifth day after a weekend that saw more than 50 people killed. In Cairo, protesters threw rocks and gasoline bombs at riot police. Police in turn fired tear gas into the crowds who oppose President Mohammed Morsi and his Islamist-dominated government.

SAMEH DOSOQI, Egypt: What’s happening here in the country is really shameful. Destroying the city is not fair. But at the same time the way the police treat people makes tensions boil all, because all decisions by Morsi’s government have been taken out of the public interest.

JEFFREY BROWN: Security officials said a man described as a bystander was killed by a gunshot. It was unclear who fired it. And government tanks were on the streets in the cities of Port Said and Suez. They enforced a curfew that an angry President Morsi announced last night.

PRESIDENT MOHAMMED MORSI, Egypt: To end the bloodshed, to maintain security against vandals and law breakers, and for the protection of citizens, I have decided after referring to the constitution to announce the imposing of the state of emergency in Port Said, Suez, and Ismailia 30 days.

JEFFREY BROWN: The trouble began last week as the country marked the two-year anniversary of the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak. Protests on Friday turned violent, and 11 people died nationwide.

Over the weekend, 44 more were killed in Port Said alone. The violence there was sparked when a court sentenced 21 people to death for their roles in a soccer riot a year ago. For President Morsi, the violence is the latest in a series of crises since his election last summer. And Sunday, he warned he will use force to stop the trouble if need be. But he also called for talks.

MOHAMMED MORSI: There is no alternative to dialogue. And as I have done before, dialogue is the only way forward. And, thus, I call on political figures for dialogue Monday concerning the dire situation we are in and to set the framework and measures of dialogue.

JEFFREY BROWN: The opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, rejected the appeal through one of its leaders, Mohamed ElBaradei.

MOHAMED ELBARADEI, National Salvation Front: The dialogue which the president called for last night is cosmetic, not substantive. We’re all for any serious dialogue that has a set agenda which can move the country forward.

JEFFREY BROWN: The Front claims Morsi and his Islamists have hijacked the revolution. It wants to amend the new constitution that voters ratified last month.

From afar, the U.S. State Department today urged Morsi’s government to proceed carefully.

VICTORIA NULAND, State Department Spokeswoman: We are watching how the emergency law put in place will be applied, given the very sensitive history of this in Egypt. What’s most important is that the Egyptian government respect the rights of all Egyptians to due process going forward.

JEFFREY BROWN: Meanwhile, as thousands of Egyptians attended funerals, the Morsi government waited to see whether emergency rule will quell the trouble.