Police shot and killed two protesters in Suez, Egypt, early Friday, a health official said, the first to die in clashes that erupted around the country after a riot at a soccer stadium killed 74, as sports violence spiralled into a new political crisis for Egypt.
Protesters blame police for failing to control the riot after the soccer game in Port Said. In Cairo, thousands demonstrated Thursday in front of the Interior Ministry, which oversees the police.
Demonstrators threw rocks, and police responded with clouds of tear gas. Hundreds were treated by medics.
In Suez, witnesses said about 3,000 people demonstrated in front of police headquarters after news spread that one of the victims in the Port Said riot was from their city.
Police responded with tear gas and then opened fire, witnesses said. Health official Mohammed Lasheen said two men were killed by bullets. Fifteen other protesters were wounded, he said.
The deaths of 74 people Wednesday night in a post-match stadium riot in the Mediterranean city of Port Said fueled anger at Egypt's ruling military and the already widely distrusted police forces.
Many in the public and in the newly elected parliament blamed the leadership for letting it happen — whether from a lack of control or, as some alleged, on purpose.
Survivors of the riot described a nightmarish scene in the stadium. Police stood by doing nothing, they said, as fans of the winning home team, Al-Masry, attacked supporters of the top Cairo club, Al-Ahly, stabbing them and throwing them off bleachers.
Narrow exit trapped fans
A narrow exit corridor turned into a death trap as crowds of fans fled into it, only to be crushed against a locked gate as their rivals attacked them from behind.
A network of zealous Al-Ahly soccer fans known as Ultras vowed vengeance, accusing the police of intentionally letting rivals attack them because they have been among the most aggressive of Egypt's revolutionaries. Ultras were at the forefront of the anti-government uprising — first against toppled leader Hosni Mubarak a year ago and now against the military that took his place in power.
"Either they will die or we will die," one Ultra said, referring to the police, as he joined a march by some 10,000 people on the Cairo headquarters of the Interior Ministry, which oversees the security forces. He would only give his first name, Islam, for fear of reprisal by police.
The march turned into a call for the ruling military council of generals, led by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, to surrender power.
"Say it out loud, the council must leave!" the marchers chanted, shouting to people in residential buildings along the way.
"Get down from your balconies, Tantawi killed your children!"
Military rule compared to Mubarak regime
The military has faced protests for months led by secular and liberal youth groups demanding an end to its rule — and the soccer riot added to criticism that the generals have mismanaged the transition from Mubarak's rule. Opponents accuse the generals of being as autocratic as the ousted president and of preserving much of his regime. They say elements in the police and former regime figures have been working behind the scenes to undermine the revolution and prevent real change.
"We dreamed of change. They fooled us and brought us a field marshal instead," protesters chanted Thursday as they reached the Interior Ministry, near Tahrir Square. Some called for the execution of the military rulers. Many raised flags of the Al-Ahly club and Zamalek, another top Cairo team with its own group of Ultras.
The crowds approached the ministry from multiple sides. Some tried to dismantle walls of large concrete blocks that had been erected on streets leading to the ministry after November clashes.
Others tore away barbed wire barriers.
Protesters hurled stones at lines of riot police, who responded with heavy barrages of tear gas that sent the crowd scattering, some passing out and falling. Protesters set tires on fire, sending up black smoke as motorcyclists ferried away the injured. One young man who climbed atop a traffic light waving a flag was unmoved even as he was engulfed in a cloud of gas. "We are just across the street from the ministry," said one protester, Taha Mahfouz, wearing a helmet and waving a club that he had taken from riot police. "They can't protect their own stuff.
How can they protect the country?"
The Health Ministry said 388 protesters were injured, most overcome by gas.
In an emergency session of parliament, several lawmakers said the police failure to stop the rioting was intentional, aimed at stoking insecurity since Mubarak's ouster on Feb. 11, 2011. The aim, they said, was to create instability to justify maintaining strict emergency laws.
Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri told parliament he had dissolved the Egyptian Soccer Federation's board and referred its members for questioning by prosecutors about the violence. He also said the governor of Port Said province and the area's police chief have resigned.
Tantawi told reporters Wednesday that the country's transition will not be derailed by the violence. "Egypt is going down the path we planned," he said. "We will continue down this path and we will get through this transition."
Security officials said 47 people were arrested in Port Said.