CAIRO – At least 74 people were killed and hundreds injured in fan violence on Wednesday after a football match in the Egyptian city of Port Said, in what FIFA called a "black day for football."
The clashes in the northern city – blamed by the Muslim Brotherhood on supporters of fallen president Hosni Mubarak – came as the country struggled with a wave of incidents linked to poor security.
"The death toll has now reached 74, including one policeman, in the unrest after the match between Al-Ahly and Al-Masri," the health ministry said in a statement. Hundreds were injured.
The army deployed troops in Port Said "to prevent further clashes between fans of Al-Ahly and Al-Masri," state television reported, adding the military had secured the road out of the city.
Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzuri was to hold an emergency cabinet meeting on Thursday to discuss the events.
A security official said the violence erupted as soon as the referee blew the final whistle. Fans of Port Said team Al-Masri, which beat Cairo's Al-Ahly 3-1, invaded the pitch and began to throw rocks, bottles and fireworks at Al-Ahly fans.
"I am very shocked and saddened to learn this evening that a large number of football supporters have died or been injured," said FIFA President Sepp Blatter in a statement.
"This is a black day for football. Such a catastrophic situation is unimaginable and should not happen," he said.
Egypt's military ruler, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who took power when the veteran Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising last February, sent two military planes to Port Said to fly out the players and the injured, state television reported.
He stressed that the country's security "is fine" as he waited at an airport in east Cairo to meet players and wounded fans being flown back to the capital.
The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest political force, accused Mubarak supporters of instigating the football violence.
"The events in Port Said are planned and are a message from the remnants of the former regime," said MP Essam al-Erian in a statement on the Islamist group's Freedom and Justice Party website.
"This tragedy is the result of negligence and the lack of army and police, and those running the country bear the responsibility," Erian added.
"There are those who deliberately want to sow chaos in the country and place obstacles in front of the peaceful transfer of power."
Since Mubarak's downfall a year ago, much of the violence and unrest plaguing the country has been blamed on supporters of his regime.
Medics said some of the deaths were the result of stab wounds and that the death toll could rise even further as ambulances continued to ferry the injured from the stadium.
Shops in Port Said, which sits at the entrance to the Suez Canal, shut their doors as private cars helped to shuttle the injured across the city to hospitals.
Prosecutor General Abdel Meguid Mahmud has ordered an immediate investigation into the violence, state television reported.
Parliament speaker Saad al-Katatni, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, said the People's Assembly would hold an emergency session on Thursday at 11:00 AM (0900 GMT) to discuss the violence.
Newly elected liberal deputy Amr Hamzawi has called for the immediate sacking of the interior minister as well as the governor and security chief of Port Said.AFP