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Bloody violence sparked by football verdicts jolts Egypt

PORT SAID: Street clashes killed at least 30 people in Egypt’s Port Said yesterday after 21 supporters of a local football club were sentenced to death over a bloody stadium riot in the canal city.
The violence comes a day after nine were killed in protests against President Muhammad Mursi on the second anniversary of Egypt’s uprising against predecessor Hosni Mubarak.
Minutes after a Cairo court handed down the sentences against fans of Port Said side Al-Masry over the deaths of 74 people during post-match violence last February, protesters rampaged through the city, attacking police stations and setting tires alight.
Relatives of those condemned tried to storm the prison in Port Said where they are being held, leading to fierce clashes with security forces.
Unidentified assailants used automatic weapons against police who responded with tear gas, witnesses said.
At least 30 people died and 312 were wounded, the Health Ministry said, with the Interior Ministry saying two policemen were among those killed. Medics told AFP all the fatalities were from gunfire.
Crowds stormed two police stations as heavy gunfire crackled through the city, where shops and businesses had closed.
Ambulances ferried the injured to hospitals and mosques urged worshippers to donate blood.
The army, which earlier deployed troops to restore calm, managed to control vital public buildings, including the prison, banks and courts, witnesses said. Clashes also erupted in the nearby canal city of Suez, where at least eight people were killed in fighting on Friday.
Amid the spreading unrest, the opposition threatened to boycott upcoming parliamentary polls if Mursi does not find a “comprehensive solution” to the unrest.
In Cairo yesterday, both inside and outside the court, there were explosions of joy at the verdict. Women ululated, relatives hugged each other and shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest).
The court handed its verdict to Egypt’s top cleric for his final opinion, as is customary, and set March 9 for verdicts on another 52 defendants, including police officers.

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