SUEZ, Egypt (Reuters) - Egyptians carried the body of a demonstrator Friday through Suez, an industrial city that has endured some of the most violent clashes in four days of anti-government protests fueled by poverty and unemployment.
As parts of the city, which sits on the banks of the strategic Suez Canal, descended into lawlessness, a Reuters witness said protesters were touting machine guns looted from a torched police station.
Army vehicles later moved onto the streets where clashes rumbled on through the day and night since they first erupted on Tuesday with the call to end the three decades long rule of President Hosni Mubarak.
Protesters, many grumbling about unemployment and poor wages despite Egypt’s sturdy economic growth of recent years, accuse the government of policies that line the pockets of the rich at the expense of the poor.
“They have killed my brother,” shouted one of the demonstrators in the crowd carrying the corpse. Others named the dead man a Hamada Labib, 30, a driver and blamed his death on a gunshot wound.
Two thirds of Egypt’s 80 million people are below the age of 30 and unemployment is rife, even in Suez which has the Canal which carries Middle East oil to Western Europe as well as other maritime cargoes.
“I make 400 Egyptian pounds ($70) a month. I pay 300 pounds for rent, 20 pounds for electricity, I pay 15 pounds for water. I pay 5 pounds for gas. There is not enough left for food and drink. Where is the medicine? Where is the transport?” a 35-year-old mechanic, who refused to give his name, said.
“I kill myself working all day, and you give me 15 or 20 pounds, give me my fair share,” added Ghareeb, 34, working as a driver.
A unemployed man aged around 30, who would not give his name, said there was no work in Suez and he wanted to emigrate.
Their complaints are not uncommon. About 40 percent of Egypt’s 79 million people live on less than $2 a day.
Showing his contempt for the police, who had all but lost control of some streets by mid afternoon, one protester, who appeared to be in 20s, sat on a leather chair in the middle of the street, in front of the burning police station.
His friend took a picture of him on his cellphone, and said: “This will go on Facebook, what do you think?”
As a reflection of the frustrations about unfairness, a building for Vodafone, one of three mobile providers in Egypt, was looted by an angry mob, a witness said.
The protesters captured several security trucks, and tried to flip one over, before eight army armored personnel carriers moved onto the streets late Friday near gutted remains of the police station to be greeted by cheering protesters.
Writing by Alison Williams; Editing by Matthew Jones