Egypt army spokesman slams Quorsaya Island residents

Zeinab El Gundy, Sunday 18 Nov 2012

Ahmed Ali, the official Egyptian army spokesperson, issues a statement about clashes between military police and residents of Quorsaya Island while residents continue to cut main road in Giza

The spokesperson for the Egyptian armed forces, Colonel Ahmed Ali, has issued an official statement regarding the clashes between military police and residents of Quorsaya Island earlier Sunday that resulted in the death of one civilian.

"The disputed land is owned by the Egyptian armed forces and its army's ownership was documented in the notary office on 12-7-2010," Colonel Ahmed Ali said in a statement posted in his official Facbeook page, adding that the army was planning to use the island as a base to secure the capital.

The spokesperson's statement recounted the case of the disputed island from the official point of view, claiming that locals took over the island after attacking security personnel assigned to protect the island. Colonel Ali added that the armed forces had to use force after the failure of negotiations with residents who allegedly fired at the security forces early Sunday.

"The armed forces will not allow any violation of the law, or any aggression on the land, buildings or army personnel, and we will stand against all thuggery and violations to laws by all force, regardless of the sacrifices we will present," Ali concluded in his statement.

The clashes between the military police and police on one side, and residents of Quorsaya Island on the other, resulted in the death of one resident who was shot. Four were injured from the army and two injured among residents. Over 20 residents have been arrested and referred to military prosecution. There are four missing residents. Some speculate they fell into the Nile River.

The military prosecution is already accusing 25 civilians from among the island's residents of attacking army properties and personnel. It has also ordered an extension to their detention for another 15 days pending investigations.

Angry residents of Quorsaya cut El-Bahar Al-Azam, the main road in Giza, demanding the release of the detainees and the withdrawal of army forces from the disputed land. The angry residents also demand the government hold those officials from the army responsible for the murder of the man killed Sunday and to compensate his family and the injured. So far, negotiations between residents and the government to reopen the road have failed.

The Quorsaya land feud dates back to 2007 when Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif's government, under the rule of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, attempted to force residents off the island in order to resell it to businessmen for tourism development. The government during then tried to evacuate residents forcibly using police and army forces.

In February 2010, the Supreme Administrative Court in Cairo recognised the right of residents to keep their houses and land on the island. The court's reasoning in the case depended on the 1971 Constitution that recognises the right of Egyptian citizens to have a residence and work as a basic right.

The current feud between the army and residents of Quorsaya island, "mostly fishermen and farmers," is over 500 feddans of land.

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