Middle East

Death toll in Egypt clashes hits 27

KHARTOUM: Egyptian authorities are preparing to deport some 600 Sudanese, part of a group of nearly 2,000 people detained after police forcibly broke up a protest in Cairo, a Sudanese official said Monday.

Egyptian MPs, meanwhile, called on the Cairo government to explain the circumstances of last Friday's clashes which led to almost 30 deaths.

"The targeted number of Sudanese who will be flown home ... is around 600," Major General Bashir Ahmad Bashir, who chairs a committee formed to receive the deportees, told AFP.

A Sudanese diplomatic source, meanwhile, said the death toll among the refugees after the clashes with security forces outside the Cairo offices of the UN refugee agency UNHCR had risen to 27.

The dead include 12 children and eight women, a spokesman for Sudan's embassy in Cairo told AFP. The toll rose after more people died of their injuries in hospitals across the capital.

The Sudanese Embassy said Egypt planned to begin the deportations Monday with a small group of 13 Sudanese.

More than 44 Egyptian MPs, most of them Muslim Brotherhood deputies but also some from opposition political parties and independents, issued calls for a government investigation into the deadly violence.

"Is it the role of the police force to kill people and confront them with such force?" asked Taymour Abdel-Ghani, a Brotherhood MP.

But Mohammad Abu al-Aynayn, an MP from the ruling National Democratic Party, defended the police operation.

"The Sudanese acted aggressively toward the security forces," he said, adding that the proof was that 73 policemen were among those injured.

The government had ruled out an international investigation and added that the police had exhausted peaceful means to end the protest, a report from Egypt's official Middle East News Agency (MENA) said. It said people had thrown bricks and stones at the police.

"Egypt has dealt with the sit-in of the refugees with wisdom and patience," MENA quoted Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Gheit as saying.

Speaking on behalf of the government, the legal and parliamentary affairs minister, Mofeid Shehab, criticized the West's reaction to the incident, which was also condemned by local human rights groups.

"Will any one of them allow a square in any European country to be turned into what happened at Mohandiseen?" he asked, naming the site in the park where the clashes took place.

Shehab said the government was holding 2,174 Sudanese at four locations in and around Cairo, in the wake of the violence.

Egyptian officials have said that only those Sudanese whose asylum requests the UNHCR has rejected and do not have legal residence in Egypt will be expelled.

Human rights groups have said they were concerned for the safety of those being returned, many of whom lost their documents when Egyptian security forces stormed the park where they had been protesting for three months.

Sudan said it would welcome the deportees and refugees who wish to return home.

Thousands of riot police wielding batons and water cannon last week forcibly broke-up the three-month protest by Sudanese refugees and asylum-seekers aiming to draw attention to their cause.

The international community, led by UN chief Kofi Annan and the United States, voiced its concern at the violence while the New York-based Human Rights Watch called for those behind the deaths to be punished. - AFP





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