By Amina Ismail
CAIRO (Reuters) – At least one person has been killed and dozens injured in clashes between police and residents of a Nile island in Cairo, when security forces attempted to demolish illegal buildings, the ministry of Interior said in a statement.
The violence erupted when police arrived at al-Warraq island on Sunday morning to eradicate encroachments on state-owned land, the statement said.
“The forces were surprised by demonstrations by some of the trespassers, who had assaulted the forces by firing birdshots and throwing stones … Which pushed the forces to fire teargas to disperse the protesters and to control the situation,” the statement added.
At least 37 policemen and 19 residents were injured in the clashes, the statement said. Security forces withdrew from the scene to minimize losses, a police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, told Reuters.
“The mission failed from A-Z … there hasn’t been proper coordination,” he said.
The island residents say they built their houses on this land over 30 years ago.
“We were born on this island … we have proof of ownership, our parents were born here.. they want to give it to the Emirates to build hotels,” said Marzouk Hany, 20, butcher, as he was marching along with hundreds in the funeral of the man who was killed.
In May Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi began a campaign to demolish thousands of buildings that were alleged to have been illegally built on state-owned land.
“There are islands in the Nile … according to the law no one should be present on these islands,” Sisi said in a speech in June. He ordered the authorities to make it a priority to reclaim the islands in the same speech.
About 90 thousand people live on the 1300 acres al-Warraq island, said Mahmoud Jaffar Salman, a former member of parliament to Giza, which the island is part of.
(Additional reporting by Mohamed Abdellah, Haitham Ahmed and Omar Fahmy; Editing by Greg Mahlich)