Death Toll Rises to 79 from Soccer Riots in Egypt

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The death toll from a riot at a soccer game in Egypt rose to 79, officials said Thursday, as many continued to mourn and look for the reasons behind the deadly melee.

A somber crowd of hundreds were in Cairo’s Tahrir Square Thursday, some saying chants decrying Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. Many were wearing the popular apparel of the Al-Ahly club.

A committee will investigate the circumstances that caused the deadly riot Wednesday at the match between Cairo’s Al-Ahly team and the Al-Masry team, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said in a statement early Thursday.

It was unclear whether intense sports rivalries or political strife caused the clashes in the northeastern city of Port Said.

The fighting occurred in a stadium in Port Said after the home Al-Masry team beat Cairo’s Al-Ahly team 3-1.

Fans from both sides bashed each other with rocks and chairs, said Mohamed Sultan, head of the ambulance association in Port Said.

Many of those who died fell from bleachers inside the stadium, according to Ahmed Saeed, an official from the Port Said governor’s office.

Others suffocated, said Al-Ahly fan Amr Khamis, who returned to Cairo early Thursday with his head bandaged after an Al-Masry fan beat him with a wooden stick.

“The police opened the gates separating us from the Masry fans and their hooligans attack us with everything: rocks, glass bottles, knives, swords. Some had guns. … How did the police allow them with these weapons into the bleachers?” he said.

Authorities contributed to escalating violence, said Mamdouh Eid, the executive manager of the Al-Ahly fans committee.

“The police stood there watching, and the ambulances arrived late. I carried several dead fans in my arms,” he said.

Tension was building throughout the game, Eid said, as Port Said fans threw bottles and rocks at players.

“There were organized groups in the crowds that purposely provoked the police all through the match and escalated the violence and stormed onto the field after the final whistle,” said Gen. Marwan Mustapha of Egypt’s interior ministry. “Our policemen tried to contain them, but not engage.”

At least 47 people were arrested after the clashes, he said.

The interior ministry and the military were not responsible for what happened, Gen. Ismail Osman, a member of Egypt’s military council, told Mehwar TV.

Many Al-Ahly fans were trapped in the bleachers during Wednesday’s fighting, Eid said, because police did not open gates that would have allowed them to exit the stadium.

(Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Ian Lee, CNN, Reporting)