Rage as police are blamed for match violence

An Egyptian soccer fan shouts anti-ruling military council slogans during a protest at Sphinx square in Cairo, Egypt. AP
An Egyptian soccer fan shouts anti-ruling military council slogans during a protest at Sphinx square in Cairo, Egypt. AP
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EGYPT’S Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri dissolved the Egyptian Soccer Federation’s board and referred its members for questioning by prosecutors after the deadly outbreak of violence at a match claimed more than 70 lives.

He also said the governor of Port Said, where the match took place, and the area’s police chief have resigned.

Several MPs have said the lapse was intentional, aimed at stoking the country’s insecurity since the fall a year ago of former leader Hosnit Mubarak.

Some have accused the police of allowing the riot to happen out of vengeance against the ultras – die-hard soccer fans who are bitter enemies of the police and have been among the most aggressive protesters over the past year.

The ultras, backers of the Al-Ahly club, were at the forefront of violent protests a year ago that led to the collapse of the police force, and in more recent months, have clashed with soldiers in rallies demanding an end to military rule.

In an emergency session, Parliament Speaker Saad el-Katatni, of the Muslim Brotherhood, accused security authorities of hesitating to act, putting “the revolution in danger.”

“This is a complete crime,” said Abbas Mekhimar, head of parliament’s defence committee. “This is part of the scenario of fuelling chaos against Egypt.”

Protests and a march on the Interior Ministry were planned against the police force over the violence. In the morning, dozens of angry protesters sealed off Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak, while others blocked the street in front of the nearby state TV building in preparation for the rallies.

The riot at the stadium in Port Said erupted when fans of the local team, Al-Masry, were able to storm the pitch following a rare 3-1 win against Al-Ahly, one of Egypt’s most popular clubs.

Some fans were crushed to death while others were stabbed or suffocated after being trapped in a long narrow corridor trying to flee rival fans armed with knives, clubs and stones.

Al-Masry supporters, armed with knives, sticks and stones, chased Al-Ahly players and fans, who ran toward the exits and up the stands to escape.

Lines of riot police in the stadium largely did nothing to intervene, witnesses said. At one point, the stadium lights went out. At the time, the TV commentator said authorities shut them off to “calm the situation.”

Essam el-Erian, a Brotherhood MP, said the military and police were complicit in the violence, accusing them of trying to show that emergency regulations giving security forces wide-ranging powers must be maintained.

“This tragedy is a result of intentional reluctance by the military and the police,” he said.

A number of political parties called on the Egyptian parliament to pass no-confidence vote against the government of el-Ganzouri, a Mubarak-era politician appointed by the ruling military council.

Osama Yassin, head of sports committee in parliament, said the parliament holds the interior minister, who is in charge of police, responsible for the violence.

He demanded the removal of the prosecutor general Prosecutor-General Mahmoud Abdel-Meguid to guarantee “transparent investigations.”