Egyptian police shoot two protesters dead amid anger over football carnage

The deaths of soccer fans in a post-match stadium riot in the Mediterranean city of Port Said on Wednesday night has fueled anger at Egypt’s ruling military. (Reuters)

At least two protesters were shot dead by Egyptian police using live ammunition to disperse a crowd trying to break into a police station in the city of Suez in a show of anger triggered by the deaths of 74 people in the country’s worst soccer disaster, a medical source and witnesses said on Friday.

“We received two corpses of protesters shot dead by live ammunition,” said a doctor at a morgue where the bodies were kept. A witness said: “Protesters are trying to break into the Suez police station and police are now firing live ammunition.”

In separate clashes, protesters laid siege to Egypt’s Interior Ministry on Friday, extending a rally against the military-led government into a second day.

The deaths Wednesday night in a post-match stadium riot in the Mediterranean city of Port Said fueled anger at Egypt’s ruling military and the already widely distrusted police forces. Many in the public and in the newly elected parliament blamed the leadership for letting it happen ─ whether from a lack of control or, as some alleged, on purpose.

Survivors of the riot described a nightmarish scene in the stadium. Police stood by doing nothing, they said, as fans of the winning home team, Al-Masry, attacked supporters of the top Cairo club, Al-Ahly, stabbing them and throwing them off bleachers.

A narrow exit corridor turned into a death trap as crowds of fans fled into it, only to be crushed against a locked gate as their rivals attacked them from behind.

A network of zealous Al-Ahly soccer fans known as Ultras vowed vengeance, accusing the police of intentionally letting rivals attack them because they have been among the most aggressive of Egypt’s revolutionaries. Ultras were at the forefront of the anti-government uprising ─ first against toppled leader Hosni Mubarak a year ago and now against the military that took his place in power.

“Either they will die or we will die,” one Ultra said, referring to the police, as he joined a march by some 10,000 people on the Cairo headquarters of the Interior Ministry, which oversees the security forces. He would only give his first name, Islam, for fear of reprisal by police.

The march turned into a call for the ruling military council of generals, led by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, to surrender power.

“Say it out loud, the council must leave!” the marchers chanted, shouting to people in residential buildings along the way. “Get down from your balconies, Tantawi killed your children!”

The military has faced protests for months led by secular and liberal youth groups demanding an end to its rule ─ and the soccer riot added to criticism that the generals have mismanaged the transition from Mubarak’s rule. Opponents accuse the generals of being as autocratic as the ousted president and of preserving much of his regime. They say elements in the police and former regime figures have been working behind the scenes to undermine the revolution and prevent real change.

“We dreamed of change. They fooled us and brought us a field marshal instead,” protesters chanted Thursday as they reached the Interior Ministry, near Tahrir Square. Some called for the execution of the military rulers. Many raised flags of the Al-Ahly club and Zamalek, another top Cairo team with its own group of Ultras known as White Knights.

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