More than 74 dead in Egypt football riots
CAIRO - At least 74 people were killed and hundreds injured when rival fans clashed on Wednesday after a football match in Port Said, highlighting a security vacuum in post-revolution Egypt.
In one of the deadliest incidents in the sport’s history, violence erupted as soon as the referee blew the final whistle in a match which saw home team Al-Masri beat Cairo’s Al-Ahly 3-1.
Photos of bleeding players circulated on the Internet. Gunfire was also reported on the main road leading to Port Said from Cairo, and troops were deployed to prevent further clashes.
“The death toll has now reached 74, including one policeman, in the unrest after the match between Al-Ahly and Al-Masri,” the Health Ministry said in a statement.
“Most of the people were killed in the crush,” Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim added, while medics said some of the deaths were the result of stab wounds.
State television said around 1,000 people were injured in the violence but the interior ministry put the number at 248.
The ruling military announced three days of national mourning, while the Port Said security chief was summoned to Cairo over the events.
The clashes in the northern city - blamed by the Muslim Brotherhood on supporters of fallen president Hosni Mubarak - came as the country struggles with a wave of incidents linked to poor security.
Shops in Port Said, which sits at the entrance to the Suez Canal, shut their doors as private cars helped to shuttle the injured across the city to hospitals.
Politicians, fans and players took to social media to express their fury over the violence which caps a year of political upheaval and unrest after the uprising that unseated Mubarak.
“There are dead people lying on the ground! There are dead people in the changing room,” Al-Ahly striker Emad Meteab told the team’s satellite channel.
“I won’t play football anymore until these people get justice,” a furious Meteab said.
State television showed footage of riot police standing rigidly in rows, as pandemonium erupted around them.
Egypt’s hated police force had recently come under fire for its heavy-handed tactics and had been given instructions to deal carefully with protesters, sources said.
The interior ministry said 47 people were arrested, as the prosecutor general ordered an immediate investigation into the violence.
Shortly after the clashes, the army deployed troops in Port Said “to prevent further clashes between fans of Al-Ahly and Al-Masri,” state television reported.
In Geneva, FIFA President Sepp Blatter said he was “very shocked and saddened to learn this evening that a large number of football supporters have died or been injured.”
“This is a black day for football. Such a catastrophic situation is unimaginable and should not happen,” he said. AFP