Egypt questions 87 activists

Police questioned 87 Egyptians on Sunday they detained after they clashed with security while protesting bread shortages in the north of the country, said a security official.

Thousands of demonstrators fought with police on Saturday after protesting a decision by local authorities to end direct distribution of flour rations in the Mediterranean coastal town of Burullus.

A state-owned paper said some 8 000 protesters sealed off the main Cairo-Mediterranean highway for seven hours and burnt tires to stop traffic. Police fired teargas and arrested dozens to disperse the crowd

The protesters were angered by authorities’ decision to end direct distribution of subsidised flour rations in favour of only supplying bakeries with the flour, the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to give statements.

Rising food prices wrecks Egypt

Fishermen in Burullus prefered to take the flour and bake their own style of bread suited to long fishing voyages rather than buy the standard subsidised bread from the bakery.

There had also been accusation that people were selling the subsidised flour on the black market for a profit, leading to shortages.

Like much of the rest of the world, Egypt had been wracked by rising food prices and stagnant wages, resulting in protests and demonstrations.

There had also been a shortage of subsidised bread, relied on by vast segments of this impoverished country of 76.5 million, resulting in long lines in bakeries.

Some 10 people were reported killed since the beginning of the year after scuffles over bread.

Speaking at the Food and Agriculture Organization’s summit on Wednesday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak blamed rising food prices on the increased use of bio-fuels.

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