This is not football, this is a war and people are dying’: More than 70 dead and 1,000 injured after pitch invasion in Egypt

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By Leon Watson
(Daily Mail)

At least 74 football fans were killed and hundreds injured after a pitch invasion in Egypt last night.

Trouble flared after a match in the city of Port Said when armed fans surged forward seconds after the final whistle.

The home team, Al-Masry, secured a rare 3-1 victory against the country’s top  team, Al-Ahly.

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The Egyptian army was being airlifted in by helicopter to rescue stranded players who became trapped in the changing rooms

Egyptian fans clash with riot police after a shock result in the country's premier leagueEgyptian fans clash with riot police after a shock result in the country’s premier league

Police struggled to keep order as chaos erupted in the stadium

Police struggled to keep order as chaos erupted in the stadium

According to officials, Al-Masry fans carrying knives swarmed on to the pitch, throwing stones, fireworks and bottles at rival fans, players and security officers.

Most of the victims are believed to have died from suffocation or head injuries, with some cornered in the stadium as parts of it were set on fire. The two teams have a long history of bad blood.

The Egypt Football Association ordered an indefinite suspension of its premier league and Egypt’s state prosecutor has ordered an immediate investigation.

One witness to the Egypt riot said people threw stones, sticks and bottles at their rivals and injured some players. The witness was speaking on condition of anonymity because he feared retribution.

Children were seen among the crowds at the stadium of Port Said as violence broke outChildren were seen among the crowds at the stadium of Port Said as violence broke out

Television pictures showed fans swarming over the pitch after a match in the Egyptian city of Port SaidTelevision pictures showed fans swarming over the pitch after a match in the Egyptian city of Port Said

Hesham Sheiha, Egypt's deputy health minister, said the riot was the 'biggest disaster in Egypt's soccer history'Hesham Sheiha, Egypt’s deputy health minister, said the riot was the ‘biggest disaster in Egypt’s soccer history’

Most of the victims are believed to have died from suffocation or head injuries, with some cornered in the stadium as parts of it were set on fireMost of the victims are believed to have died from suffocation or head injuries, with some cornered in the stadium as parts of it were set on fire

He said the atmosphere was already tense in the field before the game as one Al-Ahly fan raised a banner insulting supporters of the home team.

Security forces in Egypt had been keeping a lower profile since last year’s popular protests that ousted President Hosni Mubarak from power, allowing fans to smuggle knives into the stadium.

The riot also threatened to destabilise the country once more.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the most powerful party in Egypt’s parliament, blamed supporters of the deposed Mubarak regime for promoting violence at the match as a way to bring back chaos to Egypt.

Reaction: Egypt's state prosecutor ordered an immediate investigation into the violence, and the Egypt Football Association ordered an indefinite suspension of the annual championshipReaction: Egypt’s state prosecutor ordered an immediate investigation into the violence, and the Egypt Football Association ordered an indefinite suspension of the annual championship

Warring fans flee from a fire in the stadium as dozens were killed and more than 1,000 left injuredWarring fans flee from a fire in the stadium as dozens were killed and more than 1,000 left injured

Flares are thrown in the stadium during clashes that killed dozens and left a 1,000 others injuredFlares are thrown in the stadium during clashes that killed dozens and left a 1,000 others injured

Cameras showed fire breaking out in a stand at the Port Said stadium as fans battled each other on the terracesCameras showed fire breaking out in a stand at the Port Said stadium as fans battled each other on the terraces

 

Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim told state television that 13,000 Al-Masry fans stormed the field, jumping a low fence and attacking 1,200 Al-Ahly fans.

Al-Ahly goalkeeper Sharif Ikrami, who was injured in the clashes, said dead bodies were carried into the dressing room.

‘There were people dying in front of us,’ he said. ‘It’s over. We’ve all made a decision that we won’t play soccer any more. We can’t think about it.’

Egyptian police clash with fans after a football match between Al-Ahly and Al-Masry teams in Port SaidEgyptian police clash with fans after a football match between Al-Ahly and Al-Masry teams in Port Said

Violent scenes: Egyptian football fans invade the pitch as fighting between rival supporters breaks outViolent scenes: Egyptian football fans invade the pitch as fighting between rival supporters breaks out

Ahli players run for their lives as rival fans stream onto the pitch and head towards themAhli players run for their lives as rival fans stream onto the pitch and head towards them

Al-Masry manager Kamal Abu Ali announced he was resigning. ‘This is not about soccer. This is bigger than that. This is a plot to topple the state,’ he said.

The riot was the deadliest incident in football since October 1996, when 78 fans died and 180 others were injured in a stampede at a stadium in Guatemala City before a World Cup qualifying match between Guatemala and Costa Rica.

The match with the most fatalities was in May 1964 when a game between Peru and Argentina in Lima descended into violence and 318 fans were killed.

Britain’s worst football disaster is the Hillsborough tragedy in Sheffield in April 1989, in which 96 supporters died.

As the trouble unfolded in Port Said, a stadium in Cairo was also set on fire by fans after a referee cancelled a match.

Under fire: Riot police guard Al Ahli soccer players as they flee Port Said StadiumUnder fire: Riot police guard Al Ahli soccer players as they flee Port Said Stadium

Al-Ahly players escape from the field as fans of Al-Masry team rush onto the pitchAl-Ahly players escape from the field as fans of Al-Masry team rush onto the pitch

Fans of Masry team run after players of the Ahly team during the riotsFans of Masry team run after players of the Ahly team during the riots

Caught on camera: Fans beating a man during the riots that erupted Masry and Ahly fansCaught on camera: Fans beating a man during the riots that erupted Masry and Ahly fans

 

The Portugese coach of Ahly, Manuel Jose (second from right) is taken to a secure area for his own protectionThe Portugese coach of Ahly, Manuel Jose (second from right) is taken to a secure area for his own protection

Egyptian riot police stand guard in Cairo Stadium during the first half of a match between Zamalek and Ismaili clubsEgyptian riot police stand guard in Cairo Stadium during the first half of a match between Zamalek and Ismaili clubs

A fan flees from a fire at Cairo stadium as crowds set parts of the stadium on fireA fan flees from a fire at Cairo stadium as crowds set parts of the stadium on fire

Egyptian youths are backdropped by a fire which erupted in Cairo Stadium after it was announced a match between Zamalek and Ismaily was cancelledEgyptian youths are backdropped by a fire which erupted in Cairo Stadium after it was announced a match between Zamalek and Ismaily was cancelled

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