Cairo: Egyptian Army on Friday took control of the Port Said Security Directorate, the police headquarters, to calm tensions in the Suez Canal city, as clashes between protesters and security forces intensified ahead of a court verdict on the deadly 2012 football riots.
The Interior Ministry said that the decision was made to withdraw police from their headquarters in Port Said in light of the continued attacks on them and public property.
The ministry, in a statement, appealed to residents of the city to act to restore calm and stop the violence.
Also, Egyptian police began the largest ever police strike in the country as the anti-riot personnel closed their camps and scores of police stations were closed nationwide.
Civil disobedience among police officers was extended to more than half of Egypt`s 27 governorates and thirty police stations had closed. Security also withdrew from protecting the house of President Muhammed Mursi.
Police forces are objecting to being part of the political conflict between the Muslim Brotherhood and the people. They are also against the current Minister of Interior Mohammed Ibrahim whom they say is only serving the interests of the Brotherhood.
On the official level President Mursi said he was considering arming the police with full armaments in order to enable them to face the protestors.
Mourners also turned out for the funeral of protesters killed in clashes in Port Said.
Thousands of protesters followed a casket borne by mourners that held the body of a man killed in clashes on March 4. A funeral was also scheduled later in the day for another protester.
Meanwhile, Maged Nouh, the commander of the Central Security Forces (CSF), was fired from his post after he failed to contain the anger of the CSF officers who staged a sit-in in at least seven CSF camps in Cairo alone, the Egypt Independent reported.
Ibrahim, the Minister of Interior, has appointed Asharf Abdallah a long CSF serving officer, to succeed Nouh.
The unrest comes just ahead of the verdict in the case of Port Said massacre.
Protests had erupted in Port Said in late January when a court sentenced 21 defendants to death in the case of a 2011 stadium riot that killed 74 people, mostly fans of visiting Cairo side Al-Ahly.
On Saturday, the court, again sitting in the capital for
security reasons, is due to judge the remaining 52 defendants.
The massacre had taken place in Port Said on February 1 last year when clashes took place inside a football stadium between fans of Al-Ahly club and Port Said club Al-Masry, that resulted in the death of 74 Al-Ahly fans.
Both clubs said the security was involved in one way or the other.
On January 26, a court sentenced 21 defendants to death for their role in the massacre postponing the ruling for the security men till March 9.
The death verdicts triggered violence in Port Said which has continued for more than a month claiming about 70 lives so far and has left more than fifteen hundred injured.
Violence is feared after the verdict on Saturday.
Earlier in Alexandria, dozens of striking officers and policemen shut down the Muharram Bek police station.
They said the move is part of their protest against what they claim "the politicisation of the ministry."
The protesters said they rejected recent decisions taken by the ministry, which forced them to tackle protesters.
Army forces have been deployed in the city since violent protests hit the streets in January.
Army commander Brig Gen Mohamed Wassefy went to the security directorate and spoke with the crowd, including the families of the martyrs fallen lately in Port Said, the Ahram Online reported.
Brig Gen Wassefy appealed to the people to help the army secure and clean the area.