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Demonstrators ignore curfew in restive Egyptian city

By Amir Ahmed and Reza Sayah, CNN
January 29, 2013 -- Updated 0359 GMT (1159 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Troops push back attempt to storm a prison in Port Said
  • Clashes break out between protesters and security forces in Suez
  • Morsy acknowledges dissent and calls for a dialogue with 11 political parties Monday
  • An opposition leader issues demands before agreeing to a dialogue

Cairo (CNN) -- Anti-government protesters defied Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy's curfew order in cities along the Suez Canal and clashed with police and troops in restive Port Said, state-run news outlets reported early Tuesday.

Twenty minutes after the 9 p.m. curfew began, demonstrators chanted, "With our souls, with our blood, we will sacrifice for you, Port Said," state-run television reported.

Egyptian troops beat back an attempt by a half-dozen armed gunmen to storm a prison in Port Said, where dozens of people were killed in clashes over the weekend, according to the news service EgyNews. Nine people were injured in earlier clashes at a police station, said Abdel Rahman Farah, a supervisor of Port Said Hospitals.

An Egyptian protester throws a tear gas canister toward riot police during clashes outside the Egyptian presidential palace on Friday, February 1, in Cairo. Egypt has been embroiled in violence since last week, the two-year anniversary of an uprising that led to the ouster of then-President Hosni Mubarak. An Egyptian protester throws a tear gas canister toward riot police during clashes outside the Egyptian presidential palace on Friday, February 1, in Cairo. Egypt has been embroiled in violence since last week, the two-year anniversary of an uprising that led to the ouster of then-President Hosni Mubarak.
Egypt unstable after days of protest
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Photos: Egypt unstable after days of protest Photos: Egypt unstable after days of protest
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In the port city of Alexandria, west of Port Said, protesters sat on train tracks, disrupting rail travel at the Sidi Gaber station. There were also anti-government demonstrations in Cairo, and protesters took to the streets of Suez and clashed with security forces, state-run Nile TV reported.

Morsy declared a limited state of emergency for hot spots Sunday and announced a 30-day nighttime curfew for the provinces of Port Said, Ismailia and Suez.

The Islamist-dominated Shura Council approved Morsy's declaration of the state of emergency in the three governorates. The legislative body also granted the armed forces judicial powers to "safeguard state institutions against saboteurs and restore security."

The embattled country's latest cycle of violence stemmed from two seemingly unrelated events.

On Friday, the second anniversary of the 2011 Egyptian revolution, protesters angry with the slow pace of change as well as anti-Morsy demonstrators fought with his supporters and police in cities such as Suez and Ismailia.

At least seven people were killed in those clashes, including several by gunfire. It was not immediately clear who was responsible.

Then on Saturday, a judge issued death sentences for 21 people from Port Said for their roles in a football game riot last year. Those sentences sparked deadly clashes between security forces and relatives of the convicted, some of whom tried to storm the prison in Port Said.

At least 38 people, including civilians and soldiers, have been killed there in the past two days.

In a speech Sunday night, Morsy decried the behavior of "criminals," saying recent violence "does not have anything to do with the Egyptian revolution. ... In fact, it is against the revolution."

But he acknowledged the legitimate dissent in Egypt, saying "dialogue is the only way to bring about stability and security."

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To this end, he invited representatives from 11 political parties to a meeting Monday.

But a key opposition leader issued conditions before accepting Morsy's call for dialogue.

"Without accepting his responsibility as a president for the latest bloody events, promising to form a government of national salvation and commissioning a balanced committee to amend the constitution, any dialogue will be a waste of time," said Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the Constitution Party and a member of the opposition National Salvation Front.

On Sunday, the National Salvation Front called for "peaceful protests" and held the president responsible "for the excessive violence used by security forces against protesters," according to a statement posted on the state-run Al-Ahram news website.

The group made several demands before it would urge people to stop protesting, including the formation of a new government and making changes to what it called the "distorted constitution" that voters passed, in a referendum, last month.

Morsy's supporters warned the opposition against such demands Monday.

"We would like for the political forces, especially the National Salvation Front, to realize how important this defining moment is and to put the interest of the nation above all," said Gamal Tag, senior leader of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.

"They need to know that President Morsy's call for dialogue is not out of weakness, but it is out of his responsibility as president. ... Some forces are still putting conditions and obstacles before this national dialogue in order to make it fail. These people do not put forward the national interest. They are looking for personal gains."

The latest strife comes as Egyptians mark the second anniversary of one of the most violent and significant days in the Egyptian revolution.

January 28, 2011, was dubbed the "Friday of Rage" because thousands of peaceful protesters seeking an end to President Hosni Mubarak's three-decade rule in Cairo were met with excessive force.

It was also the day that Mubarak cut off Internet and cell phone service as many Egyptians decided to join the revolution seeking his ouster.

Some liberal factions are calling Monday the "Monday of Rage," and groups such as the National Salvation Front plan to demonstrate near Cairo's Tahrir Square in memory of those killed two years ago.

Amir Ahmed reported Atlanta, and Reza Sayah reported from Cairo. CNN's Holly Yan, Greg Botelho, Yasmin Amer and Salma Abdelaziz contributed to this report.

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