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Port Said descends into chaos

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Sixteen dead and more than 200 injured in clashes after football violence verdict


Ultras Ahlawy react at the the release of the Port Said football violence verdict on January 26. (Photo by Sara Abou Bakr)

Army units were deployed in Port Said today to restore calm after a court verdict stirred violence in the city, with at least 16 dead and 200 injured so far.

The Port Said Criminal Court had sentenced 21 people to death, Saturday morning, for the killing of at least 72 football fans during a match in February 2011 between the Al-Ahly and Al-Masry football clubs.

Relatives of the convicted stormed the prison following the verdict in an attempt to free them, leading to clashes with prison security and the death of two policemen, Captain Ahmed Al-Balky and Officer Ayman Abdel Azim. A number of security personnel were also injured.

The protesters also broke into a police station east of the city and surrounded the Al-Arab police station.

They also set fire to the residence of police forces facing the Amiri Hospital in Port Said.

Tear gas was used to disperse the protesters while a group of them were reportedly heading to the court.

Live ammunition and automatic rifles were used by people in plainclothes, according to Rawya Rageh, a reporter for Al-Jazeera English in Port Said.

She added that the Port Said governor had requested a curfew but that a decision regarding this had not yet been reached.

The army will now implement a security plan for vital installations in Port Said, as well as the Suez Canal. Entrances to the city have been sealed and all trains to Port Said have been stopped.

At least 72 defendants were on trial. Six of the sentenced 21 remain on the run, according to the ONA news agency. The remaining defendants will be tried on 9 March.

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