At least one person was 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.
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 trespassers, who 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, the statement said. Security forces withdrew from the scene to minimise losses, a police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, told Reuters.
“The mission failed from A-Z … there hasn’t been proper co-ordination,” he said.
Island residents say they built their houses on the 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) as he was marching 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 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 authorities to make it a priority to reclaim the islands in the same speech.
About ninety thousand people live on the 1300 acre al-Warraq island, said Mahmoud Jaffar Salman, a former member of parliament to Giza, which the island is part of.