Anger over a deadly soccer riot erupted
in fresh clashes that injured nearly 400 people Thursday as security forces fired tear gas at fans and other protesters who accused police of failing to stop the violence.
The bloodshed, which comes as security has been steadily deteriorating, threatened to plunge the country into a new crisis nearly a year after a popular uprising forced former leader Hosni Mubarak to step down.
A network of rabid soccer fans known as Ultras vowed vengeance, accusing the police of intentionally letting rivals attack them after Wednesday's Egyptian league match in the seaside city of Port Said because they have been at the forefront of protests over the past year, first against Mubarak and now the military that assumed power after his Feb. 11 ouster.
The riot in Port Said began when local Al-Masry fans stormed the field following a rare 3-1 win against Cairo-based Al-Ahly, one of Egypt's most popular clubs, and began attacking their rivals, forcing hundreds in to a narrow stadium exit, only to be crushed against a locked gate.
|Casualties reported during soccer match|
What began Thursday as a peaceful march from the Al-Ahly headquarters in Cairo descended into fury as more than 10,000 protesters reached the area outside the Interior Ministry building near Tahrir Square, the epicenter of last year's popular uprising that ousted Mubarak.
Adel Adawi, a health ministry official, was quoted by the state-run news agency as saying 388 protesters were injured outside the interior ministry, most from tear gas inhalation as well as bruises and broken bones from rocks that were thrown.
The protesters raised flags of Al-Ahly and Zamalek, another top team with its own Ultras group, and Egyptian flags. Some held black banners reading: "Mourning."
Ali Kadr, an Al-Ahly fan who was injured in the soccer stadium riot, recalled the horrific event: "During the game we heard fans of the other team yell and curse at us, but this was not out of the ordinary and I didn’t imagine it would end with the death of dozens of people."
According to Kadr, when the game ended, the rival team's fans spread out on the lawn and started rioting. "All of the sudden we saw people hurl stones and fireworks at us. We were forced to escape to the field. A few people grabbed me and brutally assaulted me. They stabbed my in both hands and beat my upper body."
Kadr recalled that one of the assailants shouted at him: "It would be better is you die." Kadr said his calls for help were in vein, adding that he lost consciousness shortly afterwards and woke up in the hospital.
"We felt as if we are at war," Ismail al Huari, who was also injured in the clash, told Ynet. "Hundreds of fans brought with them knives, hammers and other objects. I had a feeling from the start that there will be chaos after the game."
Al Huari said he was attacked with a hammer while trying to separate between two people quarreling. He added that most of the fatalities were stabbed to death on the field.
A member of the Muslim Brotherhood told Ynet: "In our opinion those behind the killings were Mubarak supporters who wanted to take revenge and send out a signal that the situation in Egypt will not calm down."
Roi Kais contributed to this report