Violence builds in Egypt over Islamist governors



CAIRO — Clashes erupted in nine Egyptian provinces and an influential tourism lobby threatened to shut its doors as outrage escalated over President Mohammed Morsi’s latest appointment of Islamists to key positions.

Discontent with Morsi, who marks a year in power at the end of the month, is building up as critics plan mass protests on June 30 to call for early elections. They accuse him of failing to revive the economy while putting the interests of his Muslim Brotherhood allies ahead of the nation’s good.

Morsi’s appointment of eight Islamists as provincial governors this week immediately touched off a wave of protests that continued Thursday. Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou resigned Wednesday because one of the new governors belongs to a group linked to a deadly attack on a main tourist site.

In Gharbiya province Thursday, opposition groups surrounded a local state council office, denying the new governor access, the state-run Ahram Gate website reported.

Morsi supporters and opponents clashed overnight in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura in Daqahliya province, while at least 25 were hurt in fighting in Kafr El-Sheik province, according to Ahram Gate.

The unrest is a result of the opposition that “adopts violence as their doctrine, having failed to win people’s confidence at the ballot box,” the Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood’s political arm, said in an e-mailed statement.

The appointment of Adel El-Khayat, a member of the onetime militant group Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya, as governor of Luxor has generated the most uproar. The group claimed it carried out a 1997 attack on a famed Luxor temple that killed 58 foreigners and four Egyptians. It has since renounced violence.

The appointment could mean “the death of the tourism industry in Egypt,” the Egyptian Tourism Federation trade group said in a half-page advertisement in the Al-Ahram newspaper Thursday. Its 130 employees threatened to resign over the appointments, spokesman Khaled El-Manawi was quoted as telling the Al-Shourouk newspaper.

Protests and sporadic violence have persisted in Egypt more than two years after the uprising that toppled Mubarak, deterring investors as well as tourists and complicating the task of reviving an economy growing at its slowest pace in two decades.

A petition drive organized by the Tamarod or “Rebel” campaign has collected several million signatures calling for Morsi’s ouster.

Separately, the National Salvation Front opposition alliance and other groups agreed on the need to keep the June 30 protests peaceful, Al-Ahram reported.

The government has vowed to respect peaceful protests, while warning that state installations will be heavily guarded and lawbreakers dealt with firmly.