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EGYPT: One dead, 28 injured in eviction battle

December 17, 2009 |  6:36 am

Ezbet El Haggana buildings

One man died and 28 people, including 17 policemen, were injured when residents facing eviction in the Nasr City neighborhood of Cairo clashed with police before machinery moved in to demolish apartment buildings.

The buildings in the area of Ezbet El Haggana were recently ordered by the city to be torn down for "violation and falling short of the required standards." However, inhabitants stood in the way of security forces when they started evictions five days ago.

On Tuesday, hundreds of apartment owners and residents queued in front of their buildings and hurled stones at police officers. Security personnel fired tear gas, and clashes broke out. A 60-year-old man died in what the Ministry of Interior attributed to an acute drop in blood circulation. News media reported that the man was beaten by security forces.

Eyewitnesses reportedly said that police officers were consequently forced to halt the demolition to calm the crowd. Among the reasons mentioned by authorities for razing the buildings was a report issued by the Ministry of Housing warning that 28 of the structures failed to meet minimal safety standards. On other occasions, officials have said that the buildings' location interfered with radio signals around Cairo International Airport.

Nonetheless, many are suspicious of the city's motives. Some of the houses have been standing for 15 years. The demolition has prompted Nasr City district legislator Mostafa Sallaab to asked parliament to order the demolition to be permanently stopped.

Sallaab voiced his dismay at the removal decision, adding that Ezbet El Haggana, which is inhabited by 1.2 million people, has thousands of other buildings not fulfilling safety requirements.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: Ezbet El Haggana buildings are being removed. Credit: BBC