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Feb, 2, 2012

Army blamed for stadium tragedy

Football fans and politicians have pointed the finger at the Egyptian army after at least 74 people were killed in scenes of violence during Al-Masry's 3-1 victory at home to Al-Ahly.

Death toll rises to 74 after Egyptian football riot

• Clashes leave at least 73 dead
• FIFA requests report
• Al-Ahly coach returns to Portugal

Reports claim over 1,000 people were injured after violence erupted at the match in the city of Port Said, and thousands of fans chanted "down with military rule" as they greeted the wounded upon their return at Cairo train station, with further protests planned on Thursday.

Television footage appeared to show security forces making little attempt to prevent the pitch invasion, prompting widespread anger and suggestions that the tragedy may have been allowed to happen as retribution for the Egyptian revolution that began in January last year.

Al-Ahly official Hanan Zeini did not feel the events of Wednesday night were impulsive. "I cannot believe these things happened randomly. I don't think so - it was arranged," he told the BBC.

The Muslim Brotherhood claimed an "invisible" hand was at work and added: "We fear that some officers are punishing the people for their revolution and for depriving them of their ability to act as tyrants and restricting their privileges."

Albadry Farghali, a member of parliament for Port Said, said: "The security forces did this or allowed it to happen. The men of [former president Hosni] Mubarak are still ruling. The head of the regime has fallen but all his men are still in their positions."

Fans have chanted for the execution of Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who heads the ruling military council, but he spoke to the Al-Ahli-owned television channel to insist he would track down the culprits of the violence and said: "I deeply regret what happened at the football match in Port Said. I offer my condolences to the victims' families."

He added: "Egypt will be stable. We have a roadmap to transfer power to elected civilians. If anyone is plotting instability in Egypt they will not succeed."

The incident, described by Egyptian health minister Hesham Sheiha as the biggest disaster in the country's football history, has prompted the suspension of all football in the Egyptian premier league. The army has declared three days of mourning.


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