Egypt football violence kills 74
CAIRO—At least 74 people were killed on Wednesday in fan violence after a football match in the Egyptian city of Port Said, in what FIFA called a “black day for football.”
The clashes in the northern city — blamed by the Muslim Brotherhood on supporters of fallen president Hosni Mubarak — came as the country struggled with a wave of incidents linked to poor security.
“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.
A security official said the violence erupted as soon as the referee blew the final whistle. Fans of Port Said team Al-Masri, which beat Cairo’s Al-Ahly 3-1, invaded the pitch and began to throw rocks, bottles and fireworks at the Al-Ahly fans.
“I am very shocked and saddened to learn this evening that a large number of football supporters have died or been injured,” said FIFA President Sepp Blatter in a statement.
“This is a black day for football. Such a catastrophic situation is unimaginable and should not happen,” he said.
Egypt’s military ruler, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who took power when the veteran Mubarak was ousted by a popular uprising last February, sent two military planes to Port Said to fly out the players and the injured, state television reported.
The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest political force, accused Mubarak supporters of instigating the football violence.
“The events in Port Said are planned and are a message from the remnants of the former regime,” said MP Essam al-Erian in a statement on the Islamist group’s Freedom and Justice Party website.
“This tragedy is the result of negligence and the lack of army and police, and those running the country bear the responsibility,” Erian said in other comments, also posted on the FJP website.
“There are those who deliberately want to sow chaos in the country and place obstacles in front of the peaceful transfer of power.”
Erian said the collapse in security has come following calls for the complete lifting of the decades-old state of emergency, echoing the view of many who took to social networking sites to denounce what they say was a deliberate act.
Medics said some of the deaths were the result of stab wounds and that the death toll could rise even further as ambulances continued to ferry in the injured from the stadium.
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.
Prosecutor General Abdel Meguid Mahmud has ordered an immediate investigation into the violence, state television reported.
Parliament speaker Saad al-Katatni, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, said the People’s Assembly would hold an emergency session on Thursday at 11:00 AM (0900 GMT) to discuss the violence.
Newly elected liberal deputy Amr Hamzawi has called for the immediate sacking of the interior minister as well as the governor and security chief of Port Said.
State television broadcast footage of chaos on the pitch, with fans running in all directions, as photos of bleeding players circulated on the Internet.
Gunfire was also reported on the main road leading to Port Said from Cairo.
In the capital itself, a fire broke out at Cairo Stadium during the first half of a match between Zamalek and Ismaili clubs, prompting officials to cancel the fixture.
Emergency services managed to bring the blaze under control, a security official said.
Since last February’s ouster of Mubarak, Egypt has seen sporadic and sometimes deadly unrest coupled with a sharp rise in crime, linked to the scarcity of the unpopular police, who were heavily criticised for their crackdown on protesters during the uprising.
Earlier on Wednesday, gunmen raided a money transfer company in Cairo, state news agency MENA reported, bringing to five the number of armed robberies in less than a week in a country previously unaccustomed to such incidents.