Egypt unrest: Death sentences over football riots spark violence

All 21 defendants sentenced to death on Saturday were fans of Port Said club al-Masry. When the verdicts were announced by a judge in the Cairo court, relatives of victims cheered.

However, the ruling caused supporters of the defendants to go on a rampage in Port Said. Two police officers were shot dead outside the city's prison.

At least another 24 people were killed and about 300 were wounded in further clashes, officials said.

Two footballers were among those killed in Saturday's clashes, state news agency Mena reported. They are former al-Masry goalkeeper Tamir al-Fahlah and Muhammad al-Dadhawi, a player for a lower-division Port Said club.

The violence continued despite the deployment of army units on the city's streets.

Last year's football riots led to the suspension of the league.

They began minutes after the game, when al-Masry fans invaded the pitch, hurling stones and fireworks at visiting supporters from Cairo club al-Ahly.

A section of al-Ahly supporters, known as the "ultras", played a prominent role in the protests against ex-President Mubarak.

Some accused supporters of the toppled leader of instigating the Port Said violence. They also accused police of doing little to prevent the violence.

Seventy-three people, including nine policemen, were tried over the stadium clashes. None are al-Ahly fans.

The judge said he would announce verdicts for the remaining defendants on 9 March.

Friday saw a big anti-government rally in Cairo's Tahrir Square, with opposition supporters clashing with police.

There was also unrest in 12 out of 27 of Egypt's provinces. At least six of the deaths occurred in Suez.

In Ismailia, protesters set fire to the headquarters of the Freedom and Justice Party d. The city's governorate headquarters was later also stormed.

M.D