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Egypt political forces call for symbolic funeral of slain boy potato seller

Recent death of ten-year-old sweet potato seller Omar Salah near Cairo's Tahrir Square draws ire of Egyptian activists, rights groups

Zeinab El Gundy , Thursday 14 Feb 2013
Late Omar Salah in the morgue
Late Omar Salah in the morgue (Source: Facebook)

Egyptian human rights activists and political movements are calling on people to take part in a symbolic public funeral on Friday in Tahrir Square for Omar Salah, the ten-year-old sweet potato seller killed by mistake last week near the US embassy in Cairo.

Salah had been a regular fixture of Cairo’s Tahrir Square and its surrounding areas. He was reportedly shot near the US embassy on 3 February by an army soldier manning a security checkpoint.

On Thursday, military spokesman Ahmed Ali issued a formal apology for the unintentional killing of Salah, stressing that Egypt’s armed forces remained committed to following the correct legal procedures.

"The commander of the unit reported the incident to civil police as soon as it happened so as to complete the required legal investigation," Ali stated, adding that the armed forces recognised its “legal and moral responsibility” to the slain boy and his family.

The tragic accident caught the attention of Egyptian activists after a photo of Salah's dead body in a morgue circulated online. His family, meanwhile, confirmed that the boy was buried last week.

There has been some confusion among human rights activists as to the exact circumstances of the boy’s death, especially after the appearance of a video clip on YouTube showing a similar looking boy of the same age hawking sweet potatoes near the flashpoint square.

The video, which has circulated widely in Egypt and was shown on several television programmes Wednesday night, raised some questions about the boy’s identity. In the video, the boy states that his father had died, while Salah's father is still alive.

Reports claiming that Salah had been shot twice by a Central Security Forces (CSF) conscript have also been the source of confusion, to the extent that the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR) issued a statement blaming the interior ministry – under the auspices of which the CSF operates – for Salah’s death.

"The EOHR demands an immediate investigation into the murder of the child Omar Salah,” read the statement, issued on Wednesday. “It also demands that the interior minister ban the use of live ammunition against protesters.”

Lawyer Samer Sabry, meanwhile, has filed a report against the interior ministry and Interior Minister Ahmed Ibrahim, holding the latter responsible for the death of Salah.

According to human rights activists, no less than 100 minors have been arrested in the latest wave of political violence in Cairo, Alexandria and other governorates that came in the wake of the second anniversary of Egypt’s 25 January Revolution. Some of them have reportedly been subject to physical and sexual abuse, rights activists claim.  

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