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1952: Britons killed in Cairo riots

VIDEO : Cairo riots puts UK troops on alert

Reports from Egypt say at least 20 people have been killed and hundreds injured in anti-British riots in Cairo.

Initial figures suggest up to 17 British people may have been murdered or burnt to death during the trouble. About 200 people were injured and some 300 arrested.

The rioting followed last week's disturbances in the Suez Canal zone.

The Egyptian prime minister, Nahas Pasha, has called the troublemakers "traitors" who were attempting to overthrow the government by stirring up trouble with the British.

King Farouk has declared martial law in the capital. A dawn-to-dusk curfew has been imposed and police have been given orders to shoot on sight.

Egyptian troops in steel helmets and armed with guns have been deployed at all key points in Cairo. They are guarding the king's palace and the British and American embassies.

Most of the British casualties were elderly members of the exclusive Turf Club, which was almost totally destroyed in the riots. Many historic paintings of former members of the club were also lost.

Shepheards hotel - known to tourists all over the world - was badly damaged.

Anti-British riots

The rampaging crowds also burned and looted Barclays Bank, the largest British bank in Cairo.

Anti-British feeling has been running high. British troops patrolling the Suez Canal Zone have been coming under attack from rebel gunmen.

The final straw came last week when the Egyptian fighters shot dead an Irish-born nun after forcing their way into a convent.

The British troops reacted by seizing control of the town of Ismailia. More than 40 Egyptian police officers were killed in the attack.

The commander of the British forces, Lieutenant General Sir George Erskine, said the action had been necessary to prevent further attacks by terrorists on his soldiers.

The Egyptian government accused the British of "acts of war" and "not even observing the laws and customs of war" in the canal zone.

In Context
A statement issued later by the Nahas government blamed the British forces protecting the Suez Canal Zone for stirring up the "aggressions" which led to the Cairo riots.

British troops had occupied a garrison in the canal zone since before World War I - but over the years attempts had been made to reduce their influence.

King Farouk was overthrown in a coup led by nationalists Neguib and Nasser soon after the Cairo riots. Gamal Abdel Nasser went on to become president in 1954.

Two years later he astonished the British and French by nationalising the Suez Canal and barring the Israelis from using it. He had already provoked the Israelis by closing the Straits of Tiran, which led to the Israeli port of Eilat. The Israelis were invited to join the Anglo-French forces in retaliation.

The intervention of the US forced them to withdraw.

Nasser emerged from the crisis triumphant and in charge of the canal.


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