74 dead, 1,000 injured in Egypt football violence (Third Lead)

February 2nd, 2012 - 4:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Cairo, Feb 2 (IANS) At least 74 people were killed and up to 1,000 injured at a stadium in the Egyptian city of Port Said following clashes and a stampede that broke out after a football match Wednesday night.

The bloodletting in the stadium took place when fans rushed to the field after their home team from Port Said, Al-Masry, defeated Al-Ahly, one of Egypt’s top clubs from Cairo, 3-1.

They first clashed with rival fans of the Cairo-based club and then attacked the players and coaching staff from Al-Ahly. The attack resulted in a stampede at the stadium, which was attended by some 40,000 people that night, reported RIA Novosti.

Ahmed Gaffar who was inside the stadium wrote about it on Twitter.

“Police opened the way for hordes of Masry fans to reach us… when Ahly fans tried to run away they found exits which are normally open at the end of the match were locked.”

The fans found themselves stuck in a corridor “6 x 10 metres in size” crushing many, reported ahram online.

Gaffar said when the gates collapsed the ensuing stampede resulted in more deaths. The security forces, Gaffar added, only started firing shots to disperse the Masry fans “20 minutes after the incident” when deaths had already occurred.

According to an eyewitness, the tragedy, which took place just a year after the country witnessed a civil uprising that led to a change of regime, was a manifestation of the continuing anger against the regime.

One al-Ahly fan told the BBC: “People are angry at the regime more than anything else… People are really angry, you could see the rage in their eyes.”

Last year, Egyptian leader Hosny Mubarak’s three-decade rule ended unceremoniously when he was forced to quit in February after an 18-day unrest that left around 400 people dead.

Mubarak, who resigned and left for his native place in the Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, is currently facing a trial on charges of ordering use of force against protesters. He and his family are also being probed over charges of illegally amassing wealth during his rule since 1981.

The riot was caused by some insulting posters carried by the Ahly fans, Nile TV reported. A poster read: “Port Said is like rubbish and it has no men”.

Chief of Egypt’s ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Hussein Tantawi, ordered two military helicopters to transfer the players, fans and the injured to the capital Cairo, reported Xinhua.

A spokesperson for the country’s health ministry said most of the deaths in the football stadium were caused by injuries sustained in the stampede, concussions and deep cuts to the heads.

Another football game between Al-Ismaili and Zamalek teams in Cairo was called off after the news about the melee in Port Said broke out. Cairo fans angered by the violence in Port Said set the stadium on fire. National television reported that firefighters extinguished the blaze and no one was hurt.

Egypt announced three days of mourning.

The Egyptian Football Association has ordered that all matches of the country’s championship be postponed indefinitely.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which currently holds power in the country, dismissed the governor of the Port Said province and the head of the province’s security department.

Egypt’s state television appealed to all Egyptians to help in donating blood for the injured people in Port Said and the military allocated two aircraft for transporting those with serious injuries to hospitals in Cairo.

FIFA President Joseph Blatter called the tragedy in Port Said “a black day for football” saying that “such a catastrophic situation is unimaginable and should not happen”.

“I am very shocked and saddened to learn this evening that a large number of football supporters have died or been injured following a match in Port Said, Egypt,” he said in a statement.

The violence in Port Said is the deadliest in football after 1996 events in Guatemala City, when some 80 people were killed and 180 injured in a stampede at a stadium before a World Cup qualifier between Guatemala and Costa Rica.

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