Al Ahly fans, also known as 'Ultras', celebrate and shout
slogans in front of the Al Ahly club after hearing the
final verdict of the 2012 Port Said massacre in Cairo.
REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
At least 30 people were killed when Egyptians rampaged in
protest at the sentencing of 21 people to death over a football
stadium disaster, violence that compounds a political crisis
facing Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.
Armoured vehicles and military police fanned through the
streets of Port Said, where gunshots rang out and protesters
burned tyres in anger that people from their city had been
blamed for stadium deaths last year.
The rioting in Port Said, one of the most deadly spasms of
violence since Hosni Mubarak's ouster two years ago, followed
a day of anti-Mursi demonstrations on Friday, when nine
people were killed. The toll over the past two days stands at
The flare-ups make it even tougher for Mursi, who drew fire
last year for expanding his powers and pushing through an
Islamist-tinged constitution, to fix the creaking economy and
to cool tempers enough to ensure a smooth parliamentary
That vote is expected in the next few months and is meant to
cement a democratic transition that has been blighted from
the outset by political rows and street clashes.
The National Defence Council, led by Mursi and which includes
the defence minister who commands the army, called for "a
broad national dialogue that would be attended by independent
national characters" to discuss political differences and
ensure a "fair and transparent" parliamentary poll.
The statement was made on state television by Information
Minister Salah Abdel Maqsoud, who is also on the council.
The National Salvation Front of liberal-minded groups and
other opponents cautiously welcomed the call but demanded any
such dialogue have a clear agenda and guarantees that any
deal would be implemented, spokesman Khaled Dawoud told
The Front spurned previous calls for dialogue, saying Mursi
ignored voices beyond his Islamist allies. The Front earlier
on Saturday threatened an election boycott and to call for
more protests on Friday if demands were not met.
Its demands included picking a national unity government to
restore order and holding an early presidential poll.
THREATS OF VIOLENCE
The political statements followed clashes in Port Said that
erupted after a judge issued a verdict sentencing 21 men to
die for involvement in the deaths of 74 people after a local
football match on February 1, 2012, many of them fans of the
Visiting fans had threatened violence if the court had not
meted out the death penalty. They cheered outside their Cairo
club when the verdict was announced. But in Port Said,
residents were furious that people from their city were held
Protesters ran wildly through the streets of Mediterranean
port, lighting tyres in the street and storming two police
stations, witnesses said. Gunshots were reported near the
prison where most of the defendants were being held.
A director for Port Said hospitals told state television that
30 people had been killed, many as a result of gunshot
wounds. He also said the more than 300 had been wounded.
Inside the court, families of victims danced, applauded and
some broke down in tears of joy when they heard Judge Sobhy
Abdel Maguid declare that the 21 men would be "referred to
the Mufti", a phrase used to denote execution, as all death
sentences must be reviewed by Egypt's top religious
There were 73 defendants on trial. Only a handful appeared in
court in Cairo. Those not sentenced on Saturday would face a
verdict on March 9, the judge said.
At the Port Said football stadium a year ago, many spectators
were crushed and witnesses saw some thrown off balconies
after the match between Cairo's Al Ahly and local team
al-Masri. Al Ahly fans accused the police of being complicit
in the deaths.
The fans, who call themselves "Ultras Ahlawy", said
Saturday's ruling started the process of retribution, and
hoped the rest would face the same fate when verdicts are
issued on March 9.
Among those killed on Saturday was a former player for
al-Masri and a football player in another Port Said team, the
website of the state broadcaster reported.
TEARGAS RAINS DOWN
On Friday, protesters angry at Mursi's rule had taken to the
streets for the second anniversary of the uprising that
erupted on Jan. 25, 2011 and which brought Mubarak down 18
Police fired teargas and protesters hurled stones and petrol
bombs. Nine people were killed, mainly in the port city of
Suez, and hundreds more were injured across the nation.
On Saturday, some protesters again clashed with police. In
the capital, youths pelted police lines with rocks near
Tahrir Square. In Suez, police fired teargas where protesters
angry at Friday's deaths hurled petrol bombs and stormed a
"We want to change the president and the government. We are
tired of this regime. Nothing has changed," said Mahmoud
Suleiman, 22, in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the cauldron of the
2011 anti-Mubarak revolt and near where youths again stoned
Port Said, Ismailia and Suez, which have witnessed some of
the worst violence in the past two days, lie on the Suez
Canal but a canal official said there was no disruption to
shipping through the waterway vital to international trade.
Mursi's opponents say he has failed to deliver on economic
pledges or to be a president representing the full political
and communal diversity of Egyptians, as he promised.
"Egypt will not regain its balance except by a political
solution that is transparent and credible, by a government of
national salvation to restore order and heal the economy and
with a constitution for all Egyptians," prominent opposition
politician Mohamed ElBaradei wrote on his Twitter account.
Mursi's supporters say the opposition does not respect the
democracy that has given Egypt its first freely elected
The Muslim Brotherhood, which propelled Mursi to office, said
in a statement that "corrupt people" and media who were
biased against the president had stirred up fury on the
The political schism between Islamists and secular Egyptians
and frequent bouts of violence have hurt Mursi's efforts to
revive an economy in crisis as investors and tourists have
stayed away, taking a heavy toll on Egypt's currency.
Mustapha Kamal Al-Sayyid, a professor of political science at
Cairo University, said the latest violence reflected the
frustration of many liberal-minded Egyptians and others.
"The state of polarisation between Islamists and others is
most likely to continue and will have a very negative impact
on the state's politics, security and economy," he said.