Sudanese Death Toll in Egypt at Least 25
Dec. 31, 2005
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ The death toll from Egypt's violent clearing of a Sudanese migrant camp rose to at least 25 Saturday as the presidential spokesman expressed sorrow and garbage collectors moved in to clear 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 rubbish bins with the rest of the rubble.
The photo, inscribed on the back with the words: ``Congratulations Yassmin and Ridha for your marriage,'' lay among the abandoned and meager belongings of the Sudanese _ dirty blankets, clothes, photo albums, slippers and children's shoes.
As many as 20,000 Egyptian riot police swinging clubs swept into the tiny 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 on all four corners of 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 Sulieman Awad also rejected criticism from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, saying police had evicted the protesters at the agency's request.
The migrants had occupied the park since Sept. 29 to demand that officials in the nearby UNHCR offices declare them eligible for resettlement in a third country. Egypt's Interior Ministry said the agency asked for protection because it had received threats.
On Friday, High Commissioner Antonio Guterres condemned the bloodshed from his Geneva office, saying ``there is no justification for such violence and loss of life.''
Awad said authorities ended the protest ``in response to three written requests from the UNHCR office in Cairo.''
``The UNHCR is fully aware of how much help Egypt has given in this situation and how much patience it has shown,'' he said.
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 as a small group of protesters gathered at the park, 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.''
The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights condemned ``the unjustified violence.''
Estimates on the number of dead 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 succumbed to their injuries. The Interior Ministry, however, stuck to a statement that only 12 Sudanese died and 74 police were injured, blaming the protesters for provoking the violence.
Protest leader Boutrous Deng said 26 Sudanese were killed, including two women and seven children. Egyptian Dr. Aida Saifaldawlah, who had treated the Sudanese during the protest, said 30 people died and 60 were wounded.
She said 2500 Sudanese were taken to camps run by security forces.
Not everyone sympathized with the Sudanese. The Cairo city government had been under heavy pressure from residents in the well-to-do neighborhood to close the camp.
``Look at this place. It's like a garbage dump,'' said Khaled Mohammed, a Cairo policeman who had been assigned to guard the protest camp. ``They brought diseases and a bad reputation to this district.''