February 2, 2012 - 11:31 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - At least 74 people were killed and hundreds injured after soccer fans rushed the field in the seaside city of Port Said Wednesday, Feb 1, following an upset victory by the home team over Egypt's top club, setting off clashes and a stampede as riot police largely failed to intervene.
It was a bloody reminder of the deteriorating security in the Arab world's most populous country as instability continues nearly a year after former President Hosni Mubarak was swept out of power in a popular uprising, The associated Press reports.
The melee - which followed an Egyptian league match between Al-Masry, the home team in the Mediterranean city, and Al-Ahly, based in Cairo and one of Egypt's most popular teams - was the worst case of soccer violence in Egypt and the deadliest worldwide since 1996. One player said it was "like a war."
In Cairo, fans angered that another match between Al-Ismaili and Zamalek was halted because of the Port Said violence set fire to the bleachers at the main stadium in the Egyptian capital, authorities said. No injuries were reported, and employees said firefighters extinguished the blaze before it caused much damage.
The clashes and ensuing stampede did not appear to be directly linked to the political turmoil in Egypt, but the violence raised fresh concerns about the ability of the state police to manage crowds. Most of the hundreds of black-uniformed police with helmets and shields stood in lines and did nothing as soccer fans chased each other, some wielding sharp objects and others hurling sticks and rocks.
Security officials said the ministry has issued directives for its personnel not to "engage" with civilians after recent clashes between police and protesters in November left more than 40 people dead.