Protesters Take To Streets After Egypt Soccer Deaths

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Angry demonstrators converged on Cairo's Tahrir Square Thursday to protest yesterday's melee after a soccer match in northern Egypt that left more than 70 dead. Many of the demonstrators are blaming the ruling military council for the bloodshed, saying the generals have not done enough to restore security in the country.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. In Egypt, public anger is mounting over last night's riot at a soccer game in the northern city of Port Said. Seventy-four people have died with many more wounded.

Thousands of protesters converged on downtown Cairo today, shouting slogans and obscenities. They blame Egyptian security forces for failing the stop the melee and for a general lack of security since Hosni Mubarak was forced from office.

As NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports, efforts by the ruling military council and its civilian ministers to address the attack did not calm the situation.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: The protesters, many of them extreme soccer fans known as ultras, converged on the interior ministry, as captured here in footage broadcast by the Egyptian station on TV live. They vowed to get justice for those killed or die trying.

CORNISH: Many protesters carried the red banners of the Ahli team, a perennial favorite in Egypt. Its players and fans were attacked in Port Said by supporters of the rival Masri team that won the game, Mamdouh Eid, who heads the fan coordination committee of Al Ahli, was in the stadium at the time. He accuses the police of allowing the Masri fans onto the field and then preventing Ahli players and supporters from escaping.

MAMDOUH EID: They started running, and to their surprise the security closed the exits for the stadium for Ahli supporters. So they just stepped on the stands and fell over each other and started dying in a stampede.

NELSON: The fans and others who protested in downtown Cairo accuse the police of allowing the attack to happen because Ahli supporters have taken part in protests against the ruling generals.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

NELSON: Security forces near the interior ministry fired teargas to disperse the protesters, but many stood their ground. Egyptian Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri, in a speech to parliament broadcast on state television, said the government was doing all it could to punish those responsible for the worst soccer violence in Egyptian history.

PRIME MINISTER KAMAL AL-GANZOURI: (Foreign language spoken).

NELSON: But some lawmakers at a raucous emergency session accused Ganzouri's government of stoking Egypt's growing insecurity.

SAAD AL-KATANI: (Foreign language spoken).

NELSON: Parliament speaker Saad al-Katatni accused security officials of putting the revolution in danger. Ahli soccer club official Mamdouh Eid blamed the ruling generals. He accused them of finding scapegoats among lower and mid-level officials to avoid answering the growing number of Egyptians who want them to hand over power.

EID: I blame them before anyone else. They're very arrogant and very proud and they don't want to give up. They don't want to go down to the people and see how people are thinking.

NELSON: Protests across Egypt are expected to continue tomorrow. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Cairo.

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