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Activists mark Egypt police eviction that killed 25 Sudanese

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Dec 29, 2006 (CAIRO) — Surrounded by riot police, a small group of activists held a candlelit vigil Friday night at the spot where more than two dozen Sudanese refugees died last year when baton-wielding Egyptian police evicted them from a city square.

"We won’t forget the massacre by the forces to the refugees," said a placard held by the 20-odd protesters, who stood facing about 200 police officers, half in full riot gear.

Late last year, more than 1,000 Sudanese refugees camped in a small park in an affluent district of Cairo for three months, protesting that the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, whose offices were nearby, had failed to resettle them in another country.

On Dec. 30, after hours of negotiations and sprays of water cannon, hundreds of police charged the squatters in the park, evicting and detaining them. Some of the squatters fought back, and police officers were wounded.

Egyptian security officials said 25 Sudanese, including women and children, died in the operation _ which was criticized by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The Interior Ministry blamed the violence on the squatters’ refusal to leave.

Holding a burning candle, Maissan Hassan, recalled Friday that she was shocked by the death toll.

"I don’t want to be a part of that," she said, explaining her participation in the vigil.

After the crackdown, the government deported about 20 squatters and released the remainder. Wagdy Abdel Aziz, the chairman of the Cairo-based South Center for Human Rights, said many of the squatters had managed to find accommodation in Cairo during the past year, but they still want to be resettled in other countries.

"The situation for them has not really changed," Aziz said.

A spokeswoman for the UNHCR, Abeer Etefa, said the Sudanese who come to Egypt receive asylum-seeking status, but the agency cannot resettle all applicants in third countries.

(AP)

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