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3:30am UK, Thursday February 02, 2012
At least 74 people have been killed and 1,000 injured after a football pitch invasion in Egypt, according to reports.
Clashes are said to have broken out as fans flooded the field seconds after the game in the northern coastal city of Port Said finished.
There were reports of rocks, bottles, flares and fireworks being thrown as politicians in the country criticised a lack of security at the match.
Doctors treating the victims said some had been stabbed to death. One player caught up in the rioting described it as “a war”.
Troops have now been deployed on the streets and dozens of people have been arrested.
One player likened the scenes in Port Said to ‘war’
Witnesses said most of the deaths involved people who had been trampled in the crush of panicked crowds, or who fell from terraces.
Deputy health minister Hesham Sheiha told state television: “This is unfortunate and deeply saddening. It is the biggest disaster in Egypt’s soccer history.”
Fans of the home team, Al Masry, swarmed the field after a rare 3-1 win against Al Ahly, one of Egypt’s top teams.
Khalil Fahmy, Sky News Arabia correspondent, said police had been heavily criticised for doing nothing to intervene at the ground.
He said: “Many people were crying for help, for police or army intervention. They spent almost an hour without any army or police protection – this resulted in the bad injuries of hundreds of people.
“Most of the dead were killed by head injuries.”
As details of the violence emerged, a football match in Cairo, 200km (125 miles) away, was called off in mourning and television footage showed sections of the stadium on fire. An announcer said the blazes had been started by fans angry over the cancellation.
Some players in Port Said were taken to a locker room for protection, reports said.
Military helicopters were reportedly sent in on an emergency evacuation to pull Al Ahly fans and players out of the confrontation amid fears they face attack.
A Port Said medic said some of the dead were security officers.
The country’s football federation has now “indefinitely delayed” all premier league matches, the state prosecutor has called for an investigation and the country’s parliament is to convene for an emergency meeting on Thursday.
There are suggestions of a political dimension to the incident, with Egyptian Islamists blaming supporters of Hosni Mubarak – who was ousted as president in Egypt revolution a year ago – for provoking the violence.
Albadry Farghali, a member of parliament for Port Said, accused officials and security forces of allowing the disaster, saying they still had ties to Mubarak’s old regime.
He said: “The security forces did this or allowed it to happen. The men of Mubarak are still ruling. The head of the regime has fallen but all his men are still in their positions.
“Where is the security? Where is the government?”
:: Click through the gallery below for images from Port Said and Cairo