Egypt: Two die after clashes in industrial town

By Wael Gamal

Police shot dead a 15-year-old boy in the Nile Delta and a man died from wounds on Tuesday, the first fatalities in two days of clashes between Egyptian police and workers, security sources said.

Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif visited the textile town with four ministers, offering bonuses and more investment in the town’s giant factory to placate workers angry over high prices.

The dead boy, Ahmed Ali Mabrouk Hamada, was standing on the balcony of his family’s flat in Mahalla el-Kubra, 100 km (60 miles) north of Cairo, when bullets hit him in the head and neck, the security sources said.

“He was asleep on the third floor when he heard loud bangs and came out to check and suddenly he was hit by a bullet and fell to his death,” said his uncle, Alaa al-Shebeeni.

A doctor at the city’s mortuary, who asked not to be named, said: “The boy died as a result of two bullets in the head. One entered below his ear and the other went from below his chin and penetrated his head.”

A 45-year-old man wounded during clashes on Monday died at a nearby hospital from a bullet wound to the head, the sources said, without giving further details.

Despite the ministers’ visit, about 2,000 workers and local residents protested after dark in front of a town police station, threatening more violence if authorities did not release protestors who had been detained.

Prosecutors had ordered 331 people held for 15 days on suspicion of taking part in acts of violence, which injured more than 75 since they began on Sunday.

The workers had tried to go on strike and protest against high prices but plainclothes security men took control of the factory and forced them to work, workers said.

The unrest in Mahalla has been the most serious during more than one year of conflict over pay between industrial workers and management. In most cases management has quickly made concessions to the demands of the workers.

At the Misr Spinning and Weaving plant, the team of ministers said workers there would receive a bonus equivalent to 30 days’ pay. The labour minister praised them for not taking part in acts of violence, the state news agency MENA said.

Prime Minister Nazif told 2,000 workers — about one tenth of the workforce — that the government would ensure in future that their wages outpace inflation and had approved 400 million pounds ($73 million) in investment in the company.

Investment Minister Mahmoud Mohieldin said the government would double the amount of subsidised bread available to workers through the factory and would improve medical facilities there.

Other textile workers at state-owned factories across the country will receive a 15-day bonus, the ministers said.

Workers present at the event, some of whom chanted slogans against the strike, said the factory managers had chosen them to take part in the meeting with the ministers.

Local people including many teenagers have joined in the anti-government protests, alongside the textile workers seeking pay rises to compensate for sharp increases in food prices.

The fighting continued into Monday night and Tuesday morning as protesters hurled petrol bombs at security forces. Police fired tear gas to disperse the crowds. ($1 = 5.45 Egyptian pounds)

(Reuters – Additional reporting by Mohamed Abdellah, Writing by Jonathan Wright and Will Rasmussen, editing by Mary Gabriel)

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