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Egypt police clash with protesters

Anger over a deadly football riot in Egypt has erupted with fresh clashes that injured nearly 400 people as security forces fired tear gas at fans and other protesters who accuse police of failing to stop the violence.

The bloodshed - which comes as security has been steadily deteriorating in the country - threatens to plunge Egypt into a new crisis nearly a year after a popular uprising forced former leader Hosni Mubarak to step down.

The football riot in Port Said on Wednesday night began when local Al-Masry fans stormed the field following a rare 3-1 win against Cairo-based Al-Ahly, one of Egypt's most popular clubs, and began attacking their rivals, forcing hundreds into a narrow stadium exit only to be crushed against a locked gate. More than 70 people died.

The fighting was rooted in a long-standing, deep rivalry between the two teams but it rapidly took on a political tone as politicians and the public widely denounced the police for standing by as the violence escalated.

Some Al-Ahly fans said they had hung banners making fun of Al-Masry supporters in Port Said before the game, apparently provoking the local fans to riot despite their victory.

Tensions spread to Cairo as many of the dead were brought home for burial and the wounded joined the protests, some in tears, clearly in distraught for the loss of friends.

What began as a peaceful march from the Al-Ahly headquarters in Cairo descended into fury as more than 10,000 protesters reached the area outside the interior ministry building near Tahrir Square, the epicentre of last year's uprising against Mubarak.

Adel Adawi, a health ministry official, was quoted by the state-run news agency as saying 388 protesters were injured outside the interior ministry, most from tear gas inhalation as well as bruises and broken bones from rocks that were thrown.

Riot police guarding the area were separated from the protesters by barricades of concrete blocks and barbed wire that were erected in November, when clashes between the police and protesters then left more than 40 people dead. But tensions rose as protesters advanced towards them, removing some of the barriers, hurling stones and setting tyres on fire.

Police responded with heavy tear gas, sending demonstrators running, with some passing out and falling to the ground.


From Belfast Telegraph