73 Dead After Egyptian Soccer Match Turns Violent

The worst soccer violence in Egypt's history left 73 dead and many more were wounded Wednesday, according to the official count. Clashes broke out at the end of a match in the city of Port Said, located at the northern entrance to the Suez Canal.

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In Egypt today, violence erupted at a soccer game in the northern city of Port Said. At least 73 people are dead. Egyptian officials say a thousand more were wounded, most with concussions and deep cuts.

As NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Cairo, the incident prompted the head of Egypt's soccer federation to indefinitely postpone all future matches of its premier league.

(SOUNDBITE OF RIOT)

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Egyptian Alhayat TV broadcast the attack that began seconds after the final whistle was blown. Fans of the home team, Al-Masry, which won a rare victory against Egypt's top team, poured onto the field and began attacking rival players and their supporters. Some fans chased players of the rival Al-Ahly team into their dressing room.

Al-Ahly, or the National Club of Cairo, is a perennial powerhouse in Egyptian soccer. Its matches usually draw large crowds. Al-Masry's 3-to-1 victory today over Al-Ahly was the first ever. Egypt's state prosecutor ordered an immediate investigation into the melee that officials say was the worst in Egyptian soccer history. The Egyptian parliament called for an emergency session on the incident.

Violence at soccer games has escalated in the past year. Such attacks are blamed not only on rowdy fans but on Egyptian police officers who fail to provide adequate law enforcement since the revolution that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak. Security forces in riot gear did attempt to break up the fight at the stadium in Port Said, but were quickly overwhelmed. Officials say police officers were among those killed.

In Cairo, meanwhile, another soccer game was abruptly called off after a fire broke out in the stands. That fire was also blamed on rowdy fans.

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR news, Cairo.

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