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Rediff.com  » Sports » More than 70 dead in Egypt's worst football disaster

More than 70 dead in Egypt's worst football disaster

February 02, 2012 07:03 IST

Seventy-four people were killed and at least 1,000 injured on Wednesday when Egyptian football fans staged a pitch invasion in the city of Port Said, the deadliest incident since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak from power.

Angry politicians decried a lack of security at the match between Port Said team al-Masry and Cairo's Al Ahli, Egypt's most successful club, and blamed the nation's leaders for allowing - or even causing - the tragedy.

The violence flared after the match. Witnesses said fighting began after Ahli fans unfurled banners insulting Port Said and one descended to the pitch carrying an iron bar at the end of the match, which al-Masry won 3-1.

Al-Masry fans reacted by pouring onto the pitch and attacking Ahli players before turning to the terraces to attack rival supporters.

Many fans died in a subsequent stampede, while some were flung off their seats onto the pitch and were killed by the fall. At the height of the disturbances, rioting fans fired flares straight into the stands.

"Down with military rule," thousands of Egyptians chanted at the main train station Cairo where they awaited the return of fans, quickly turning the biggest disaster in the nation's football history into a political demonstration against army rule.

"The people want the execution of the field marshal," they shouted, turning on the ruler of the military council, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who tried to assuage anger by vowing to find the culprits in a phone call to a TV channel.

The post-match pitch invasion provoked panic among the crowd as rival fans fought, with most of the deaths among people who were trampled in the crush of the panicking crowd or who fell or were thrown from terraces, witnesses and health workers said.

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