CAIRO — Security forces fired tear gas at a prison truck Sunday in an attempt to free a police officer from rioting detainees, killing at least 36 suspects rounded up during streets clashes between Islamist supporters of the country's ousted president and police, officials said.
The deaths of the prisoners, captured during the fierce fighting in recent days around Cairo's Ramses Square, came as Egypt's army leader Gen. Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi vowed that the military would not tolerate further violence after four days of nationwide clashes left at least 888 dead.
While el-Sissi called for the inclusion of Islamists in the government, security forces detained Muslim Brotherhood members in raids aimed at stopping more planned rallies supporting ousted President Mohammed Morsi — which the military-backed government says fuels the violent unrest.
The killed detainees were part of a prison truck convoy of some 600 people heading to Abu Zaabal prison in northern Egypt, the officials told The Associated Press. Detainees in one of the trucks rioted Sunday night and managed to capture a police officer inside, the officials said.
Security forces fired tear gas into the truck in hopes of freeing the badly beaten officer, the officials said. The officials said those killed died from suffocating on the gas.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.
However, the officials' version of events contradicted reports about the incident carried by state media. The official website of Egyptian state television reported that the deaths took place after security forces clashed with militants near the prison and detainees came under fire while trying to escape. The official MENA state news agency also said the trucks came under attack from gunmen.
State media also said all those killed and the gunmen belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood, the organization that Morsi hails from. The officials who spoke to AP said some of the detainees belonged to the Brotherhood, while others didn't.