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Egyptian protesters demand answers on civilian deaths

Strikes bring city near canal to halt despite promises

PORT SAID, Egypt — A third day of protests and strikes brought the restive city of Port Said to a halt on Tuesday, as demonstrators demanded security officials be held accountable for the killings of about 40 residents in riots last month.

The strategic city at the mouth of the Suez Canal has been at the forefront of protests against President Mohammed Morsi, highlighting the government’s difficulty in asserting authority as discontent widens. Despite the protests, shipping through the canal, a pillar of the economy, has not been disrupted.

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In Port Said, thousands marched in support of a general strike called by soccer fans and students. Some carried banners bearing the names of their companies. Others held pictures of those killed. Most chanted against the president.

‘‘This strike and protest will not end until our demands are met,’’ said Amira el-Alfi, a 33-year-old secretary who said factory managers had sent workers home early to join the march.

‘‘We want retribution starting from the president to the interior minister to the snipers who killed those people,’’ she said, referring to claims by residents that security forces firing from rooftops were responsible for many deaths in the unrest.

Last month, residents rose up in fury over death sentences issued against locals over a deadly soccer riot a year ago. Most of the deaths in the crisis came when security forces reportedly opened fire on protesters, some of whom attacked police facilities, and at funerals the following day.

Morsi responded with a heavy hand, declaring a state of emergency and 30-day curfew in Port Said and two other Suez Canal provinces. The state of emergency is still in effect, although residents have ignored the curfew.

In an attempt to diffuse the tension, Parliament has discussed a long-held demand of Port Said residents to re-activate a free trade zone. And the local governor said authorities in Cairo have promised to send a team to investigate the violence.

Morsi said in a statement Tuesday he will dedicate $59 million of Suez Canal revenues to Port Said and two other provinces along the waterway for development and job creation efforts.

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