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2 dead, 600 hurt in Cairo protests after soccer riot

Thousands of people poured into Cairo's Tahrir Square, where tear gas was used to disperse the crowd. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

Updated at 9:00 p.m. ET: A health official told The Associated Press that two protesters were killed by police gunfire in clashes with police in Suez. They were the first to die in protests that followed a deadly soccer riot after a game in Port Said, Egypt.

Updated at 8:30 p.m. ET: The Egyptian Ministry of Interior has increased the number of people injured in the Cairo melee on Thursday to 628, NBC News reported, citing a state television report. 

Updated at 5:20 p.m. ET: Anger over a deadly soccer riot erupted into fresh clashes that injured nearly 400 people in Cairo on Thursday as security forces fired tear gas at fans and other protesters who accused police of failing to stop the bloodshed.

The violence, which comes as security has been steadily deteriorating, threatened to plunge the country into a new crisis nearly a year after a popular uprising forced former leader Hosni Mubarak to step down, The Associated Press reported. 


 

A network of rabid soccer fans known as Ultras vowed vengeance, accusing the police of intentionally letting rivals attack them after Wednesday's Egyptian league match in the seaside city of Port Said because they have been at the forefront of protests over the past year, first against Mubarak and now the military that assumed power after his Feb. 11 ouster.

At least 74 people were killed and hundreds more injured when rival soccer fans in Egypt rioted after a match. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports from Cairo.

What began Thursday as a peaceful march from the Al-Ahly headquarters in Cairo descended into fury as more than 10,000 protesters reached the area outside the Interior Ministry building near Tahrir Square, the epicenter of last year's popular uprising that ousted Mubarak.

Protesters set tires on fire, sending black smoke in the air. Motorcycle drivers ferried some of those wounded from the site as ambulances were unable to get through. The Health Ministry said in all 388 were injured, most from tear gas inhalation as well as bruises and broken bones from rocks that were thrown.

Updated at 4:45 a.m. ET: Egypt's prime minister dissolves the Egyptian Soccer Federation's board and refers its members for questioning by prosecutors after post-match clashes that left 74 dead, The AP reports.

Published at 3 a.m. ET: CAIRO -- The head of Egypt's ruling military council, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, vowed Thursday to track down those behind soccer violence that killed at least 74 people in Port Said, speaking in a rare phone call to an Egyptian TV channel.

"These kind of events can happen anywhere in the world but we will not let those behind this get away," Tantawi said, speaking to the sports television channel owned by Al Ahli, one of the teams playing. He said victims would receive compensation after their cases were examined.

"We will get through this stage. 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. Everyone will get what they deserve," he said, adding that securing the game was the responsibility of the police force.

PhotoBlog: Chaotic scenes as injured soccer fans return to Cairo

 

At least 47 people were arrested in connection with the melee, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said.

Story: 'People are dying in front of us': Scores killed in riots after Egypt soccer match

The violence was a bloody reminder of the deteriorating security in the Arab world's most populous country as instability continues nearly a year after former President Hosni Mubarak was swept out of power in a popular uprising.

At least 70 people died and hundreds were injured after a match between fierce rivals. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports.

The clashes and ensuing stampede did not appear to be directly linked to the political turmoil in Egypt, but the violence raised fresh concerns about the ability of the state police to manage crowds. Most of the hundreds of black-uniformed police with helmets and shields stood in lines and did nothing as soccer fans chased each other, some wielding sharp objects and others hurling sticks and rocks.

Several enraged politicians and ordinary Egyptians accused officials who are still in their jobs after the fall of Mubarak of complicity in the tragedy, or at least of allowing a security vacuum that has let violence flourish in the past 12 months.

"The security forces did this or allowed it to happen. The men of Mubarak are still ruling. The head of the regime has fallen but all his men are still in their positions," Albadry Farghali, a member of parliament for Port Said, screamed in a telephone call to live television.

Security officials said the ministry has issued directives for its personnel not to "engage" with civilians after recent clashes between police and protesters in November left more than 40 people dead.

Activists scheduled rallies Thursday outside the headquarters of the Interior Ministry in Cairo to protest the inability of the police to stop the bloodshed.

Related: Fatal disasters at soccer stadiums

The violence also underscored the role of soccer fans in Egypt's recent protest movement. Organized fans, in groups known as ultras, have played an important role in the revolution and rallies against military rule. Their anti-police songs, peppered with curses, have quickly become viral and an expression of the hatred many Egyptians feel toward security forces that were accused of much of the abuse that was widespread under Mubarak's regime.

The stadium in Port Said, a multi-use 18,000 all-seater venue, was built in 1955 and more than met FIFA's standards after modern improvements and hosted matches in the 2006 African Cup of Nations and the World Under-20 Cup in 2009.

Unlike other disasters the stadium could not be faulted for the resulting loss of life which appears to be due entirely to human failings.

Egypt is not immune to soccer violence. In April, the ineffectiveness of the police force also was on display when thousands of fans ran onto the field before the end of an African Champions League game between local club Zamalek and Tunisia's Club Africain.

The hundreds of police on duty at Cairo International Stadium could not stop the violence then, either.

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Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.