Hundreds in Cairo protest after Port Said football tragedy

Hundreds in Cairo protest after Port Said football tragedy

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Thu, 02/02/2012 - 11:12

Hundreds have blocked the Nile Corniche in front of the Maspero state television building to protest the violence following a football match Wednesday in Port Said, which left at least 71 football fans dead.

Riots broke out at the Port Said football stadium following a rare win by the local team, Masry, against Egypt's leading squad, Ahly. Thousands of hardcore football fans, known as ultras, supporting Masry swarmed the pitch following the victory and clashed with Al-Ahly Ultras, causing the deaths and hundreds of injuries, according to the Health Ministry.

Relatives and friends of the victims marched to the TV building from Cairo's Ramses train station, where they had been waiting for fans returning from Port Said. At the station, nearly 10,000 Al-Ahly Ultras received their fellow fans early Thursday, and demanded the head of the ruling military council, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, be executed.

Ahly fans were accompanied by supporters of their arch-rival, Zamalek, at the protest, and all chanted slogans against the SCAF and Tantawi.

Thousands of demonstrators from nearby Tahrir Square also joined the protest, which halted traffic in front of Maspero. Dozens of Ahly Ultras also marched in the square itself, chanting angrily and demanding retribution for their dead comrades.

Emad Eddin Hussein, the managing editor of the independent Al-Shorouk daily, said protesters prevented him, TV commentators and other reporters from entering the Maspero building. In a radio interview, Hussein voiced solidarity with the demonstrators and held the Interior Ministry responsible for the crisis.

Protesters said their numbers are likely to grow throughout the day Thursday, adding that they intend to organize marches from Tahrir to the Interior Ministry and the cabinet building, both of which are located near the square.

Several activists and politicians are holding the SCAF and interim government responsible for the disaster, while others are blaming vestiges of the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak.

In reference to the violence, reform advocate and Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei said Thursday that the failure to restructure Egypt's security services is a crime against the country.

After receiving the returning Ahly players at an air force base east of Cairo on Thursday, Tantawi told reporters that attempts to undermine Egypt's stability are doomed to fail. He urged Egyptians to find the perpetrators behind the violence.

"We want people to take part and not stand still. The ones who did this are individuals known to the Egyptian people. And the Egyptian people should not let them go."

However, he did not specify the identity of those he was referring to.

In a phone call to the Ahly club's satellite channel, Tantawi denied reports that the government had removed Port Said's governor and security chief.

"I have ordered an investigation and we will find out who caused the tragic incident," he told the channel.

Tantawi added that the Interior Ministry is "doing its duty" in securing football matches.

"We are implementing a road map to transfer power to an elected civilian government, and we have already managed to secure the parliamentary elections," he said.