At least 25 people were killed Sunday during clashes that broke out before a soccer match in Egypt, authorities told the Associated Press. The deadly confrontation is the country's most violent sports incident since scores of people were killed before another soccer match in 2012.
Police fought with the soccer fan group Ultras White Knights and fired tear gas in front of Cairo's Air Defense Stadium ahead of a match between Egyptian Premier League clubs Zamalek and ENPPI. Medical workers at a nearby hospital told local media that they had identified 14 victims. The Ultras White Knights claimed more than 20 fans were killed, and the AP cited two unnamed Egyptian security officials as saying at least 25 people died.
"They died of suffocation and stampede after being tear-gassed," a medical source told Ahram news. Eyewitnesses reported seeing families of the killed fans screaming hysterically at the hospital.
Officials from Egypt's Interior Ministry initially refused to confirm any deaths and instead reported that 20 people were injured after they tried to enter the stadium without tickets.
"The Zamalek fans tried to enter the stadium by force, and we had to prevent them from damaging public property," the ministry said in a statement, adding that some fans had attacked police officers.
Witnesses told news site Egyptian Streets that the Zamalek fans blocked the street outside the stadium carrying sticks and metal poles, and that some fans tried to scale the fences of the stadium and a nearby Air Force club.
The Ultras White Knights called the police "infidels," and said they used excessive force to stop fans from entering the stadium. They said police used metal gates to block people from the game.
"Down with the state, curse you, you infidels, may you be burned," UWK wrote on its Facebook page, according to a translation by Egyptian Streets.
The confrontation came just days after the Egypt Football Association (EFA) resumed allowing fans at soccer games after a lengthy ban.
In 2012, 74 people were killed in clashes after a match at the coastal city Port Said, prompting the EFA to bar fans from the country's stadiums. The EFA declared Wednesday after talking with the Interior Ministry that the fans could return — but said rioters would face tough penalties.
The move was intended to project an appearance of stability in the country, Gulf News reported.
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