PORT SAID, Egypt -- President Mohamed Morsi invoked emergency powers in three cities Sunday night to stem riots that have killed nearly 50 people and raised questions over whether his Islamic-backed government can secure order amid sharpening political turmoil.
In a nationally televised address, Morsi shook his finger at the camera and warned: “Those who try to scare citizens, use weapons, block roads, throw rocks at the innocent, those who attempt to jeopardize the safety and security of this nation, we must deal with them with all force and firmness.”
He added that “everyone must know that state institutions in Egypt ... are fully capable of protecting this nation.”
The emergency powers included curfews in the nation’s most troubled cities: Ismailia, Port Said and Suez. The army deployed to the towns over the weekend after rioting and looting threatened businesses, public institutions and ports serving the Suez Canal. But violence continued as gunmen roamed streets lined by shuttered shops and littered with garbage.
Seven people were killed and more than 600 were injured in Port Said on Sunday when police and unknown gunmen opened fire on a funeral procession carrying those who died in violence a day earlier. Clashes also erupted for a fourth straight day in Cairo, where protesters burned tires and blocked the 6th of October Bridge near a stretch of tourist hotels.
The latest wave of unrest began Friday on the second anniversary of the revolution that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. The violence intensified Saturday when 21 soccer fans were sentenced to death in Port Said for killing rival fans in a riot last year. Their relatives attempted to storm the prison, clashing with police. At least 33 people died.
Bitterness at Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood party over the nation’s deteriorating security and economic chaos was resonant.
“This country has been in a worsening state for 10 years. We had hoped Morsi’s new government would improve things,” said Sameh Abd El-Khalek, an accountant in Port Said. “Morsi has not responded to our needs. I don’t know what the solution is. But people just don’t curse the police anymore, they’re cursing Morsi too.”
Mourners along the funeral procession chanted: "Down, down Morsi, down, down the regime that killed and tortured us!"