CAIRO: Twenty-two people were killed Sunday in clashes between Egyptian police and Zamalek football cub fans at a Cairo stadium, the state prosecutor said, in the country’s deadliest sports violence since dozens died at a match in 2012.
At least another 25 people were wounded in the clashes that erupted when fans tried to force their way into the venue to watch a game.
Health ministry officials refused to comment on how the 22 deaths came about. All were said to be civilians.
the Zamalek fan club posted pictures on their Facebook page of the bodies of two dead men wearing club t-shirts.
The match between Zamalek and Enbi was open to the public, unlike most other games between Egyptian football clubs since deadly stadium riots in Port Said in 2012.
“We were inside the stadium when the clashes began outside. There was a police car on fire and they were shooting birdshot and tear gas,” a witness told AFP. “The people fled into the desert to escape” the clashes in the northeastern Cairo stadium, he said.
The interior ministry had restricted to 10,000 the number of spectators allowed into the stadium, and tickets quickly ran out.
Thousands of fans without tickets scaled the stadium walls before police dispersed them, the ministry said.
Police fired tear gas and birdshot and Zamalek supporters let off fireworks, police and witnesses said.
Many of those injured suffered broken bones and bruising, the health ministry said according to state news agency MENA.
The match continued despite the violence, provoking further outrage among the fans.
-‘Police are killing them’-
Outside a Cairo morgue where the bodies were taken, dozens of relatives wept and wailed while others pored over a list of the dead trying to identify loved-ones.
“The youths are supposed to be building this country and the police are killing them,” one man shouted.
Others scuffled with morgue security men who were blocking their access.
Morgue officials later placed a computer outside showing pictures of the dead men for relatives to identify.
The state prosecutor ordered an investigation into the clashes, a statement from his office said.
The statement said the fans had blocked a road leading to the stadium and torched three police vehicles.
Sunday’s deaths could inflame football fans who have repeatedly clashed with police over the past few years and can mobilise thousands of youths.
The Egyptian Football Association said in a statement it would not allow fans in stadiums for upcoming matches
In February 2012, more than 70 people were killed and hundreds injured in post-match violence following a game in Port Said between Cairo’s Al-Ahly and Al-Masry.
The riots were the deadliest in Egypt’s sports history.
A court handed out death sentences to 21 people over that violence before an appeals court ordered a retrial that is yet to conclude.
The 2012 riots took place under a military regime that had taken charge after a popular uprising, in which football fans played a key role, ousted veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak.
The fans have continued to be a volatile force in the troubled country.
Following the Port Said stadium riots in 2012, hundreds of Cairo Al-Ahly football fans confronted police in deadly clashes in the capital