Toll Said to Rise in Egypt Crackdown

From Associated Press

The death toll from Egypt's violent clearing of a Sudanese migrant camp reportedly rose to at least 25 on Saturday, and a presidential spokesman expressed sorrow and garbage collectors moved in to haul away the trash of a failed three-month protest.

The Sudanese refugees were gone, but a picture of two of them, a couple holding hands on their wedding day, remained -- until it was scooped into bins with the rest of the rubble.

As many as 20,000 Egyptian riot police officers swinging clubs swept into the Cairo park to evict 2,000 or so Sudanese squatters early Friday. Police had spent much of the night dousing migrants with water cannons stationed at all four corners of the camp. A protest leader said seven children were among those killed.

With scenes from the violent encounter repeatedly playing on television news channels around the world, a spokesman for President Hosni Mubarak expressed the country's "sorrow and pain for all the victims."

But the spokesman, Suleiman Awad, also rejected criticism from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, saying police had evicted the protesters at the refugee agency's request.

The migrants had occupied the park since Sept. 29 to demand that officials in the U.N. refugee agency nearby declare them eligible for resettlement in a third country. Egypt's Interior Ministry said the U.N. agency requested protection because it had received threats.

In Geneva, High Commissioner Antonio Guterres condemned the bloodshed, saying "there is no justification for such violence and loss of life."

The UNHCR stopped hearing the cases of Sudanese seeking refugee status after a January peace deal ended a civil war in the south of their homeland.

Criticism mounted in Egypt and abroad Saturday over the crackdown. In the park, a small group of protesters gathered, chanting, "Down with Mubarak!" and "Humanity was killed here!"

"The police acted with extreme brutality," said New York-based Human Rights Watch. "The blood is still on the sidewalks, and already the government is blaming the Sudanese refugees and migrants."

Estimates of the toll varied.

Security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk with the media, said the toll rose to 25 when several protesters died of their injuries. The Interior Ministry, however, stuck to a statement that 12 Sudanese died and 74 police officers were injured, blaming the protesters for provoking the violence.

Protest leader Boutrous Deng said 26 Sudanese were killed, including two women and seven children. An Egyptian doctor who treated protesters said 30 people died and 60 were hurt.

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