BEIRUT

Middle East

Deadly clashes in Egypt after soccer club banned

PORT SAID: One person was shot dead and 18 injured when angry soccer fans clashed with security forces in Egypt's Port Said after their club was banned over the country's worst stadium disaster, a medical source said on Saturday.

The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) banned the club, al-Masry, for two seasons for a pitch invasion that killed 74 fans last month, the most deadly incident since the protests that toppled President Hosni Mubarak last year.

The EFA ordered Port Said Stadium, where the stampede took place after al-Masry beat Cairo's Al Ahli, to be closed for three years.

Military police fired shots in the air to disperse hundreds of soccer fans protesting outside the Suez Canal Authority building in Port Said, witnesses said. The clashes began late on Friday and continued into the early hours of Saturday.

"Hundreds of angry fans clashed with military police after the decision was announced," one witness said.

"One was shot dead, in the back, and 18 were injured in the clashes, two of them are suffering gunshot wounds," the medical source said.

Port Said harbour was closed on Saturday morning because of the protests and ships using the Suez Canal were directed to a secondary route east of the city, sources at the Suez Canal Authority and Port Said harbour said.

Eyewitnesses told Reuters that many factories did not open as hundreds of protesters closed roads leading to the coastal Mediterranean city, denying entrance to thousands of workers from neighbouring provinces.

The EFA said in a statement that Masry's soccer activities would be suspended for the 2011/12 and 2012/13 seasons. The club would be reinstated to the Egyptian Premier League in the 2013/14 season.

During the February pitch invasion, steel doors at the stadium were bolted shut, trapping fans trying to escape from the stands. Dozens were crushed to death.

Many fans blamed the government for failing to send enough police to the stadium given the tense build-up to the match, and many believe the violence was started by hired thugs. At least 1,000 people were injured.

Prosecutors referred 75 people, including nine security officials in Port Said, to the criminal court on March 15 to face trial over the violence.

 

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