Egypt soccer riot: Have police lost control? (+video)
At least 79 were killed in the Egypt soccer riot yesterday, the deadliest violence since Mubarak's ouster a year ago. Some blame the military regime for stirring up trouble to justify extended its rule.
Egypt declared a three-day mourning period and its parliament held an emergency session after clashes between fans of rival soccer teams killed at least 79 people Wednesday night.Skip to next paragraph
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The violence was the deadliest incident since the uprising that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak, and heightened criticism of the poor performance of the police force, which has often appeared either unable or unwilling to perform its duties in securing Egyptians' safety since the 30-year leader was forced out.
Many Egyptians, while fiercely angry at police, are also holding the military council ultimately responsible for the failure of police and the lack of security in the country.
“Those in charge are responsible for this,” says soccer fan Tamer as he helped block traffic into Tahrir Square this morning in protest.
Even though Tamer is a supporter of the Zamalek club, an archrival of the Ahly club whose fans were attacked yesterday, he came out in a show of solidarity against the security forces. “The police stood by and did nothing as people were killed," he says. "And the military hasn’t provided a safe and secure environment. This is a national tragedy and those in charge bear the blame.”
Policeman: No one respects us anymore
The details of what happened Wednesday night after a match in the Mediterranean coastal city of Port Said are unclear. Hard-core fans, known as "ultras," from both Al Masry, the local club, and Al Ahly, a Cairo-based club that is the most popular in Egypt, attended the match, which ended in an unusual victory for Al Masry. Videos show that after a game, fans of Al Masry rushed onto the field, apparently attacking both the Ahly players and fans. Most of the police present appeared to stand aside as the crowd swarmed the pitch.
Witnesses reported that some fans suffocated to death in a panicked rush to escape, while others were stabbed or otherwise wounded in clashes with Al Masry fans. The exits were closed, leaving Ahly fans trapped in exit passageways where they had tried to escape.
Mohamed Abu Trika, a popular player for Al Ahly, said on the team’s television station that police had not protected people. “People are dying here, and no one is doing anything,” he said. “It’s like war.”
But a police conscript guarding an embassy in Cairo today, who gave his name as Adel, says he sympathized with his colleagues at the match. The police could not control a violent stampede, he says – especially these days, after losing the respect and fear of Egyptians in the uprising.