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Egypt’s Morsi declares emergency, curfew after deadly clashes

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi declared a state of emergency and nighttime curfew across three major cities yesterday after violence raged for a third straight day, leaving nearly 50 dead and hundreds injured nationwide.

The deployment Saturday of government troops to the coastal cities of Port Said and Suez, which have seen some of the worst violence, failed to quell a public backlash against a court verdict and raised doubts about whether Morsi’s embattled government could contain the situation.

In a televised address last night, the president said the state of emergency, which allows security forces to arrest and detain at will, would cover Port Said, Suez and Ismailia for 30 days.

“The protection of the nation is the responsibility of everyone. We will confront any threat to its security with force and firmness within the shadow of the state of the law,” Morsi said.

Thousands took to the streets of Port Said yesterday in funeral processions for more than 30 people killed Saturday in clashes between protesters and the police, after a court handed down death sentences to 21 people for their involvement in a deadly soccer riot last year.

Officials said that at least seven more died yesterday in the city, where hundreds have been wounded in two days of fighting. Residents said security forces had contributed to the violence, instead of bringing the situation under control.

The strife in Port Said roughly coincided with the second anniversary of the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak and with a swell of opposition to Islamist rule. In Cairo, Suez and Ismailia, clashes spawned by anniversary protests against Morsi’s government on Friday carried into yesterday, and opposition groups called for further protests today.

At the heart of the crisis is growing national frustration over the pursuit of justice two years after Mubarak’s fall. Egyptians across the political spectrum complain that the abusive security forces cultivated under his rule have evaded punishment for crimes committed during the uprising and since his ouster.

Egypt’s court system remains opaque and marred by allegations of corruption and politicized rulings.

Although the clashes in Port Said occurred in response to the court verdict Saturday, Michael Wahid Hanna, a Middle East expert at the Century Foundation, said the city’s crisis also reflected Egyptians’ growing dissatisfaction with Morsi and the slow pace of reforms.

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