At Least 73 Killed in Egypt Soccer Riot

Posted February 1st, 2012 at 4:05 pm (UTC-5)
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Egyptian health ministry officials say at least 73 people were killed and hundreds of others injured Wednesday in violence following a soccer match in the northern city of Port Said, on the Mediterranean coast.

Fans of the home team, al-Masry, swarmed the field after a rare win against al-Ahly, Egypt's top team. They threw rocks, fireworks and bottles at opposing fans and players. Live television footage showed fans running onto the field and chasing al-Ahly players, setting off clashes and a stampede. The footage also showed images of a fire in the stadium.

Reuters cited military sources as saying the head of Egypt's ruling military council, Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, ordered two helicopters sent to Port Said to fly out some of the visiting team and its fans. The helicopters will transfer the injured to military hospitals.

Egypt's state prosecutor has ordered an immediate investigation into the violence and the country's football association called for an indefinite suspension of the annual championship. Parliament said it would convene an emergency session.

A small group of riot police who formed a corridor in an attempt to protect the players were overwhelmed as fans were able to kick and punch them as they fled. Soon after the violence, another match in the capital, Cairo, was halted by the referee after receiving news of the violence in Port Said, prompting fans to set parts of that stadium on fire.

Violence at soccer matches across North Africa has increased significantly since political unrest sweeping across the region began more than a year ago.