The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

January 26, 2013

16 die in Egypt riot after soccer violence verdict

— CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian court sentenced 21 people to death Saturday on charges related to one of the world's deadliest incidents of soccer violence, touching off an attempted jailbreak and a riot that killed 16 in the Mediterranean port city that is home to most of the defendants.

The verdict follows deadly clashes between police and demonstrators on Friday, the second anniversary of the uprising that overthrew longtime leader Hosni Mubarak. Such cycles of violence, often lasting for weeks and costing dozens of lives, have occurred regularly over the past two years.

Die-hard soccer fans from both teams, known as Ultras, hold the police at least partially responsible for the Port Said deaths and criticize Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi for doing little to reform the force.

Al-Ahly Ultras in particular have been at the forefront of protests. But anger also is boiling in Port Said, where residents say they have been unfairly scapegoated.

Immediately after the verdict, two police were shot dead outside Port Said's main prison when angry relatives tried to storm the facility to free the defendants. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets, as well as live rounds, at the crowd outside the prison, killing 14, security officials said. Hundreds were wounded. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Security officials said the military is being deployed to Port Said — the second such deployment in less than 24 hours. The army was widely used to keep order by top generals who took over after Mubarak, but the military has kept a much lower profile since Morsi was elected as president in June.

Morsi cancelled a scheduled trip to Ethiopia Saturday and instead met for the first time with top generals as part of the newly-formed National Defense Council.

The military was also deployed overnight in the city of Suez after eight people died in clashes between security forces and protesters opposed to Morsi. Another protester was killed in Ismailiya, and security officials told the state news agency MENA that two policemen were killed in Friday's protests, bringing the death toll on the second anniversary of Egypt's uprising to 11.

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