Egypt industrial city tense after clashes


The Egyptian industrial city of Mahalla El Kobra was calm but tense on Tuesday after a second day of clashes between police firing rubber-coated bullets and thousands protesting the surging cost of living.

Thirty people, both civilians and police, were injured and 150 people have been arrested since Monday's demonstration in the Nile Delta city turned violent after protesters destroyed a portrait of President Hosni Mubarak, a security official told AFP.

The city has become a flashpoint for popular protests by workers and residents against low wages and skyrocketing prices of food staples. A strike in the city in 2006 led to a wave of industrial action around the country.

Any protests on Tuesday, polling day in nationwide municipal elections, are expected to be met with fierce police resistance.

A call for a general strike on Sunday was not widely followed around the country but saw similar clashes erupt in Mahalla which left 58 people injured, 28 of them police, while 150 people were arrested. Two schools were torched.

"The situation is calm but tense," workers' leader Mustafa Fouda told AFP. "The clashes could start again around [5pm local time], when the workers finish their shift and students finish class."

Fouda said police used rubber-coated bullets and tear gas against stone throwing youths chanting anti-government slogans and demanding an end to rampant inflation that has seen the price of some staples double in recent months.

The unrest spread late Monday to the nearby villages of Abu Ali and Rahidein, Fouda said, adding that students and workers saw the heavy security presence in the area as a provocation. (AFP)


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