Egypt calls off football league after deadly stadium clashes

Egypt calls off football league after deadly stadium clashes
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Published February 9th, 2015 - 15:42 GMT via

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The Egyptian government on Monday cancelled all matches in the country's Premier League indefinitely after clashes at a Cairo stadium killed at least 19 people the previous night.

The Health Ministry put the toll at 19 dead and 20 injured, while the online edition of state-run newspaper al-Ahram put the number of dead at up to 30.

The precise circumstances of Sunday night's deaths, which occurred as fans tried to enter a military stadium near the Cairo ring road to see league leaders Zamalek play ENPPI, remained unclear.

The government said fans had tried to storm the stadium in order to gain entry without tickets, and had refused to be searched.

It accused them of attacking the police and property, leading to deaths by trampling.

Zamalek's hardline fans' group, the White Knights, said supporters had been funnelled through a metal cage wide enough for only one person. When crowd pressure built up, police opened fire with tear gas and birdshot, the group wrote on its Facebook page.

The police denied that birdshot had been used.

Photographs published in the local media showed supporters packed tightly inside a narrow makeshift metal passage on the road leading towards the stadium entrance, with the rest of the road sealed off by barbed wire.

A video which news site al-Bedaiah said was of the first moments of the clashes appeared to show a number of supporters leaping over the crowds and barbed wire to get past police.

Moments later, a masked police officer opens fire, apparently from a shotgun of the type used for tear gas and birdshot. dpa was not immediately able to authenticate the footage.

The match went ahead with a half-hour delay, and the teams drew one-all. Photographs from inside the stadium showed Zamalek supporters turning their backs on the game in protest at the deaths.

Sunday's violence is Egypt's deadliest since 2012 when 74 people were killed in football rioting, marking the country's worst sports tragedy.

Earlier this week, Egyptian authorities allowed fans to attend local football fixtures after a three-year ban.

Relations between Egypt's hardcore fans, known as the ultras, and police are traditionally tense.

Both sides have been engaged in clashes several times since the 2011 uprising that forced longtime president Hosny Mubarak to step down.

© 2015 dpa GmbH

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