Hundreds of Egyptian policemen protest in Ismailiya

As they were ordered to shoot protesters


Hundreds of Egyptian policemen took to the streets of the canal city of Ismailiya on Sunday, alleging abuse within their ranks and accusing senior officers of ordering them to shoot at protesters, participants said.

Uniformed police and members of the secret police marched down a main road chanting "police and people together," a modification of the chant that anti-regime protesters have used for the army, which stepped in to keep the peace during 18 days of protests that toppled Egypt president Hosni Mubarak.

The police have been the target of popular wrath after they clashed violently with protesters seeking to overthrow Mubarak. They were also accused of releasing prisoners from several detention facilities around the country, before disappearing from the streets in large parts of the country.

The violence and looting that followed prompted citizens to take on police duties themselves.

"We are with the people," said one protesting policeman. "The violence was not our fault," he added.

"It was ordered by loyalists of (then interior minister) Habib al-Adly," who was sacked in a government reshuffle aimed at placating the protesters.

Nationwide demonstrations calling for Mubarak to step down erupted on January 25. They left at least 300 people dead and thousands injured or detained.

The police used rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannons and batons to disperse the peaceful protests.

A few days into the rallies, police disappeared entirely from large parts of the country, prompting an admission by then Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq that he did not have enough men to provide security.

In Ismailiya, police also denounced corruption within their ranks.

"The officers made us work as cooks and drivers in their private homes," said one protester, who like many at the demonstration demanded a review of salaries.

Meanwhile, journalists working for the country's official news agency protested against their own coverage of Egypt's revolution.

The violence was not our fault