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Egyptians Protest for 4th Day at Interior Ministry

An Egyptian protester throws a tear gas canister fired by security forces during clashes near the Interior Ministry in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012.
An Egyptian protester throws a tear gas canister fired by security forces during clashes near the Interior Ministry in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012.

Crowds of mostly young protesters clashed with riot police in front of Egypt's Interior Ministry for a fourth consecutive day. Protesters also held a sit-in at the nearby parliament building, demanding presidential elections be held in the coming weeks, rather than in June.  

Crowds of young men dropped back periodically before charging riot police yet again, and pelting them with sticks, stones and bottles. A line of police protecting the Interior Ministry appeared to hold its ground, occasionally dodging projectiles and firing back with tear gas.

Egyptian state TV showed the young protesters skirmishing with police on several side-streets near the ministry, calling the action a "game of cat and mouse." Fires burned in the street, clouds of tear gas filled the air and the pavement was littered with rubble.

Women chant anti-military council slogans during a protest near the People's Assembly building in Cairo February 5, 2012.
Women chant anti-military council slogans during a protest near the People's Assembly building in Cairo February 5, 2012.

Many of the protesters call themselves "Ultras" and are supporters of Cairo's top Al-Ahly soccer team. Some Ultras accuse the government and security forces of negligence in violence that left 74 people dead after a soccer match Wednesday in Port Said.

Egypt's interim Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim Youssef told a news conference some of the protesters attacking riot police are hooligans.

He called for the youth that participated in last year's revolution not to associate with others who are looking to cause trouble and disrupt security. He urges respectable protesters to move back to Tahrir Square and away from clashes near government buildings.

TV commentators said respected elders are trying to convince the young people to put an end to the clashes near the Interior Ministry.

Interior Minister Youssef insisted local officials in Port Said had not requested reinforcements from his ministry, and no one had expected such a level of violence at the match.

American University in Cairo Political Sociology Professor Said Sadek says the protesters are attacking the Interior Ministry because they perceive justice is not being carried out following the calamity in Port Said.  

"It is just a symbolic act. They want to break the prestige of the Ministry of the Interior that still remains like [it was under] the old regime.  They want to break the culture of fear. They went there not to break into [the ministry], because they do not have weapons. They look at the Ministry of Interior as the Bastille of Egypt."

Meanwhile, Egyptian officials say 43 workers for non-governmental organizations, 19 of whom are American, have been "referred" to a court for trial.  The workers are accused of involvement in "banned activity and illegally receiving foreign funds."

Relations between the United States and Egypt have soured over the issue, and Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces insists that it must be settled in court.  No court date has been set, as yet.

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