Saturday 21 October 2017

Soccer suspended in Egypt following death of over 20 fans in riot

Egyptian firefighters extinguish fire from a vehicle outside a sports stadium in a Cairo's northeast district, on February 8, 2015 during clashes between supporters of Zamalek football club and security forces. Three people were killed and 20 injured, the health ministry said. The clashes erupted after fans tried to force their way into the venue to watch a game, the ministry said. AFP PHOTO / STRSTR/AFP/Getty Images
Egyptian firefighters extinguish fire from a vehicle outside a sports stadium in a Cairo's northeast district, on February 8, 2015 during clashes between supporters of Zamalek football club and security forces. Three people were killed and 20 injured, the health ministry said. The clashes erupted after fans tried to force their way into the venue to watch a game, the ministry said. AFP PHOTO / STRSTR/AFP/Getty Images
Firefighters try to extinguish a fire on a truck as a riot broke out outside of a major soccer match between Egyptian Premier League clubs Zamalek and ENPPI at Air Defense Stadium in a suburb east of Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015. The riot broke out between the Egypt security forces and Zamalek fans outside of the major soccer game at the stadium, violence that killed at least 20 people, security officials said. (AP Photo/Ahmed Abd El-Gwad, El Shorouk newspaper) EGYPT OUT
Policemen and soccer fans argue during a scuffle as fans attempt to enter a stadium to watch a match, on the outskirts of Cairo February 8, 2015. At least 14 Egyptian soccer fans were killed in the clashes that broke out on Sunday night when security forces barred them from entering a stadium, hospital doctors told Reuters. The trouble happened at a match between two Cairo clubs, Zamalek and Enppi. Police used teargas to disperse the crowd, security forces said. The health ministry said 20 people were injured but did not confirm any deaths. The doctors said the deaths were due to suffocation. A witness said some of the fans were killed in a stampede after the police fired teargas. REUTERS/Al Youm Al Saabi Newspaper (EGYPT - Tags: SPORT SOCCER CIVIL UNREST) EGYPT OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN EGYPT
Bereaved friends and family members wait at the Zynhom morgue in Cairo on February 8, 2015. At least 22 people were killed in clashes between Egyptian police and Zamalek football club fans at a stadium in the capital, the state prosecutor said. State media had earlier said 14 people died in the violence which erupted when thousands of fans tried to force their way into the stadium. AFP PHOTO / HAMADA ELRASAMHAMADA ELRASAM/AFP/Getty Images
Soccer fans argue with security personnel as they attempt to enter a stadium before a scuffle broke out, on the outskirts of Cairo February 8, 2015. At least 14 Egyptian soccer fans were killed in clashes that broke out on Sunday night when security forces barred them from entering a stadium, hospital doctors told Reuters. The trouble happened at a match between two Cairo clubs, Zamalek and Enppi. Police used teargas to disperse the crowd, security forces said. The health ministry said 20 people were injured but did not confirm any deaths. The doctors said the deaths were due to suffocation. A witness said some of the fans were killed in a stampede after the police fired teargas. REUTERS/Stringer (EGYPT - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)

Egypt's Cabinet has suspended the national soccer league until further notice after 22 fans were killed in clashes with police and a stampede outside a Cairo stadium.

The Cabinet announced the move late last night after riot police clashed with hundreds of soccer fans and fired tear gas to clear a narrow corridor leading to the stadium, setting off a stampede.

Egypt last suspended the league in 2012 after 74 fans were killed in rioting at a match in Port Said. The violence sparked widespread outrage at the police and the transitional military council then ruling the country.

The riot broke outside the Egypt Egyptian Premier League match between Zamalek and ENPPI at Air Defense Stadium east of Cairo, with a stampede and fighting between police and fans killing at least 20 people, security officials said.

Such attacks in the past have sparked days of violent protests pitting the country's hard-core fans against police officers in a nation already on edge after years of revolt and turmoil.

Three security officials said some people died during a stampede, while others died in clashes with police. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren't authorized to speak to journalists.

What caused the violence wasn't immediately clear. Security officials said Zamalek fans tried to force their way into the match without tickets, sparking clashes. Fans have only recently been allowed back at matches and the Interior Ministry planned to only let 10,000 fans into the stadium, which has a capacity of about 30,000, the officials said.

Zamalek fans, known as "White Knights," posted on their group's official Facebook page that the violence began because authorities only opened one narrow, barbed-wire door to let them in. They said that sparked pushing and shoving that later saw police officers fire tear gas and birdshot.

A fan who tried to attend the game, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity out of fear of being targeted by police, said that the stampede was caused by police who fired tear gas at the tightly packed crowd.

"Those who fell down could not get back up again," the man said.

The Zamalek fan group later posted pictures on Facebook it claimed were of dead fans, including the names of 22 people it said had been killed. The AP could not immediately verify the images, nor their casualty count.

Egypt's hard-core soccer fans, known as Ultras, frequently clash with police inside and outside of stadiums. They are deeply politicized and many participated in the country's 2011 uprising that forced out President Hosni Mubarak. Many consider them as one of the most organized movements in Egypt after the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, which the government later outlawed as a terrorist organization following the 2013 military overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

The violence comes as police come under increasing scrutiny following the shooting death of a female protester in Cairo and the arrest of protesters under a law largely banning demonstrations. President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has pledged bring stability to Egypt amid bombings and attacks by Islamic militants, but also has said Egypt's emergency situation meant that some violations of human rights were inevitable, if regrettable.

The deadliest riot in Egypt soccer history came during a 2012 match when Port Said's Al-Masry team hosted Cairo's Al-Ahly. That riot, at the time the deadliest worldwide since 1996, killed 74 people, mostly Al-Ahly fans.

Two police officers later received 15-year prison sentences for gross negligence and failure to stop the Port Said killings, a rare incident of security officials being held responsible for deaths in the country. Seven other officers were acquitted, angering soccer fans who wanted more police officers to be held accountable for the incident and other episodes of violence.

In response, angry fans burned down the headquarters of Egypt's Football Association, also protesting its decision to resume matches before bringing those behind that 2012 riot to justice. They've also protested and fought officers outside of the country's Interior Ministry, which oversees police in the country.

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