x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Ultras go on rampage, storm police complex in Cairo after verdict

Unrest comes after an Egyptian court confirms death sentences given to 21 football fans for their role in a stadium riot in Port Said last year.

CAIRO // Several buildings in a police officers' club complex in the Egyptian capital were in flames today.

According to a senior security official, hardcore football fans of Cairo's Al Ahly club, known as the Ultras, stormed the complex and set fire to the buildings.

Residents of the affluent island where the club is situated were using garden hoses to try to extinguish the flames. Other buildings in the complex had their windows smashed.

Several hundred members of the Ultras were also making their way towards the interior ministry, state television reported.

The unrest came after an Egyptian court confirmed death sentences given to 21 football fans for their role in a stadium riot in Port Said last year, a case which has provoked deadly clashes in the Suez Canal city.

The stadium riot killed 74 people in February 2012 at the end of a match between Al Ahly and Al Masry, the local side, and have been a flashpoint for protests in Port Said and Cairo.

Spectators were crushed when panicked crowds tried to escape from the stadium after a pitch invasion by supporters of Al Masry.

Others fell or were thrown from terraces. Listing the names of the 21, the judge said the court had confirmed "the death penalty by hanging". In a ruling on live TV, the Cairo court also sentenced five more people to life in jail for the riot and acquitted 28.

Others out of a total of 73 defendants received shorter jail sentences. Rioting after the death sentences were originally announced on January 26 has underlined worsening security in Egyptian cities since the 2011 overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.

The Islamist government of President Mohamed Morsi is struggling to halt the slide in law and order, hampered by a strike by some protesting police. At least eight people have been killed in Port Said this week, including three policemen.

* With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse