30 killed in Egypt riots after 21 sentenced to death

Updated: 2013-01-27 14:46


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CAIRO - Up to 30 people were killed and over 300 others injured in clashes that erupted Saturday outside Port Said prison between security forces and family members of 21 convicts who were sentenced to death over the Port Said massacre, state TV reported.

"The Ministry of Health sent air ambulances to Port Said to move the seriously wounded people to hospitals in Cairo," the ministry spokesman Ahmed Omar told Xinhua.

30 killed in Egypt riots after 21 sentenced to death

Al Ahly fans, also known as "Ultras", celebrate and shout slogans in front of the Al Ahly club after hearing the final verdict of the 2012 Port Said massacre, in Cairo Jan 26, 2013. [Photo/Agencies]

After the Port Said Criminal Court on Saturday ordered death sentence for 21 defendants over the massacre, which killed more than 70 in February last year, families of the convicts violently attempted to break into the prison where they are detained.

The prison area was engulfed by clouds of smoke as furious families of the convicts set fire to trees and gardens attached to the prison and nearby police station. Security forces responded by firing tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Seventy-three defendants, including nine top security officials, were arrested after tragic riots at Port Said Stadium following a soccer match between Port Said's al-Masry and Cairo's al-Ahly teams.

The Egyptian interior ministry, for its part, on Saturday asked people in a statement to keep away from the areas of violent clashes, stressing that it would not give up its duty of protecting peoples' lives and the state premises.

The army forces were deployed in Port Said to restore stability, official news agency MENA reported, adding that the Railways Association has decided to halt trains from entering Port Said.

In a statement, Egyptian army's chief of general staff Ousamah Rousdy called the army soldiers to stick to self-restraint in dealing with citizens.

Meanwhile, The ministry of electricity and energy appealed to the people in Port Said to guard electricity companies against any aggression.

"Rioters have already damaged some equipment of the companies, and if this continues, Port Said will be covered with darkness," the minister said in a statement.

While the situation was inflamed in Port Said, thousands of Cairo-based soccer fans dubbed "Ultras Ahlawy" expressed overwhelming happiness after Saturday's verdict. The fans, who had vowed earlier to die for the retaliation for their murdered fellows, celebrated the court decision in front of their club and then moved to Tahrir square.

Elsewhere, some people headed to the house of President Mohamed Morsi at Egypt's northeastern city of Zagazig in Sharqiya Governorate to celebrate the verdict, which they described as " historical."

Morsi has discussed with justice and communication ministers and chief of national security apparatus means of controlling the violence. He also cancelled his visit to Ethiopia for the African Summit due to the clashes.

After the meeting with Morsi, National Defense Council announced Saturday the possibility of imposing a curfew or a state of emergency in uncontrollable areas of violent confrontations.

"The Council affirms that the state institutions have the right to take necessary actions in order to protect the state premises, including imposing a curfew and state of emergency," said Information Minister Salah Abdel-Maksoud after the meeting.

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