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Egyptian military clash with football fans, one killed

Cairo: Egyptian military and police clashed with thousands of angry soccer fans in a Suez Canal city over the suspension of their club following a deadly riot last month, witnesses said Saturday. A medical official said a teenager was killed.

The riot in the city of Port Said in which at least 74 people died was the world's worst soccer-related disaster in 15 years. The causes remain murky. Officers have been charged with assisting city soccer fans to attack a Cairo club with a long history of enmity with the police, and some Port Said residents have claimed that hired outsiders were responsible for much of the killing.

 Egyptian military clash with football fans, one killed

Thousands of Egyptian activists and football fans participate in a march from the headquarters of the Al-Ahly club towards the Egyptian general prosecutor's office. AP

In the latest clashes, Egyptian troops fired volleys of tear gas and shot into in the air to disperse protesters affiliated with Port Said's Al Masry club, angry for what they see as unfair measures against their club and their city. Violence erupted late Friday and continued until early Saturday.

Witnesses said that protesters set fire to tires, blocked major roads and then gathered in front of the Suez Canal's main administrative building in an attempt to storm it. Soldiers and police cordoned off the building.

The official said teenager Belal Mamdouh was killed with a gunshot to the back while 25 were injured, mostly because of breathing difficulties from tear gas. He spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

The clashes erupted after the Egyptian Football Association on Friday officially suspended Port Said's soccer club Al-Masry for two seasons ending 2013, and closed its stadium for three years as punishment for the stadium riot.

Protesters also denounced what they described as a media campaign against their club. Hours before the protests broke out, one famous sports presenter, a former soccer goalkeeper, said that the measures were not enough.

Earlier this month, Egypt's general prosecutor charged 75 people including nine senior police officers with assisting the attackers from Al-Masry stands. Some witnesses have given accounts about "thugs" brought in from outside, but among those charged, more than 60 of them are Al-Masry fans.

The Feb. 1 riot began minutes after the final whistle in a league match between Cairo club al-Ahly, the most popular in Egypt, and al-Masry of Port Said city. The home side won 3-1, but fans were upset for what they said were obscene signs raised by Al-Ahly club fans.

Survivors of the stadium riot say men wielding batons, knifes, and fireworks streamed from Al-Masry stands and stormed the field to attack Al-Ahly fans, stabbing them, undressing them and tossing them off bleachers while the police looked on.

The melee sparked days of street protests. Most of the dead were members of Ultras Ahlawy, a group of avid politicized soccer fans who have long enmity with the police. Ultras has played a key role in the uprising against Hosni Mubarak. Ahly fans regularly taunt the police, who disappeared from the streets during the 18-day upheaval.

Activists have accused the police of turning a blind eye during the riots or even helping organize the attack, in retaliation for the al-Ahly fans' role during the uprising.

A month after the riots, Port Said remains stigmatized. Residents say they are collectively blamed for the violence and have described their situation as a "siege," with merchants and other visitors staying away from the city.

AP

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Updated Date: Mar 24, 2012 16:07:37 IST