Death Toll In Latest Egypt Clashes Climbs To 8

Published February 4, 2012 10:27AM (EST)

CAIRO (AP) — The number of people killed in clashes with Egyptian security forces in the wake of a deadly soccer riot rose to eight Saturday, a security official said, as demonstrators in Cairo kept up their calls for an end to military rule and retribution for those killed in the post-soccer game violence.

Several hundred protested in the capital's Tahrir Square and near the Interior Ministry on Saturday morning, demanding police reforms. Others chanted for the execution of Egypt's military ruler who has been accused of mismanaging the country's transition to democracy.

The protesters are also angry with the police, accusing security forces of failing to prevent an attack and stampede after Wednesday's soccer game in the Mediterranean city of Port Said that killed 74 people. It was Egypt's deadliest soccer riot and the world's worst soccer violence in 15 years.

It also highlighted the inability, and some say unwillingness, of Egypt's security forces to prevent such attacks in the year since former President Hosni Mubarak's ouster.

On Friday, security forces in the port city of Suez opened fire on a crowd of several thousand outside the police headquarters. A total of five people were killed, a police official said Saturday. Egypt's state-new agency MENA reported the victims ranged in age between 18 and 21 years-old, and that the most recent victim died of a gunshot wound Saturday that he sustained the previous day.

Two protesters died Friday in Cairo, where security forces used tear gas and birdshot to disperse thousands rallying outside the Interior Ministry. Dozens of field hospitals were set up in streets near the Interior Ministry to assist hundreds of cases of suffocation from tear gas inhalation on Friday.

Also, a security officer died after an armored police vehicle ran him over in the mayhem outside the ministry Friday, the security official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with police regulations.

There have been accusations that plainclothes officers took part in the soccer riot, and some have alleged that riot police intentionally allowed the melee in Port Said to happen to retaliate against die-hard soccer fans of the visiting team Al-Ahly, known as Ultras, who played a key role in clashes with security forces during the uprising that toppled Mubarak last February.

Lawmakers have accused the interior minister of "negligence."

The violence in Port Said began after home team Al-Masry pulled off a 3-1 upset win over Cairo's Al-Ahly, Egypt's most powerful club. Al-Masry fans stormed the field, rushing past lines of police to attack Al-Ahly fans.

Survivors described a nightmarish scene in the stadium. Police stood by doing nothing, they said, as Al-Masry fans attacked Al-Ahly supporters, stabbing them, undressing them and throwing them off bleachers. Others died from the stampede down a narrow corridor after the stadium's gate, which was locked from the oustide, was forced open by the crowd.

Military rulers have immediately declared three days of mourning after the incident and the country's leading religious figure, Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb of Al-Azhar mosque canceled Saturday's celebrations marking the birth of the Prophet Muhammad.

Protesters, rights groups and several newly elected members of parliament have called on the country's military leader, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who served as Mubarak's defense minister for 20 years and took power after the president's ouster, to immediately transfer power to a civilian administration. Some are also calling on presidential elections to be held in April rather than June.

By Salon Staff

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