Rampage in Cairo, Port Said: Egypt warns of tough action against rioters

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Rioters on Saturday who torched public and private properties in Cairo, in angry protest at the death sentences handed down to football fans involved in a riot last year, have been warned by Egypt’s interior ministry of stricter measures against them.

The ministry warned the rioters after an attack by hardcore football fans, “Ultras Ahlawy” members, left the Egyptian Football Association and the Police Club in Gezira in flames.

In a statement, the ministry said it will resort to unspecified procedures “to curb the dangers, [the effects of which] would reach everyone and directly affect the nation stability, within law and standards.”

The ministry warns and asserts that it will take decisive and strict measures toward such aggressions which harm everyone and directly affect the stability of the nations," the statement said.

It called on all revolutionary, political forces and NGOs to play a national role and take responsibility for intervening to halt the violence.

Families were also advised in the statement to keep their children away from the areas of violence and confrontations to avoid danger.

A court verdict over deadly football violence sparked the fresh unrest on Saturday, with two people killed, as Islamist President Mohamed Mursi faces growing civil unrest.

A Port Said court, sitting in Cairo for security reasons, confirmed death sentences for 21 defendants and handed down life sentences to five people, with 19 receiving lesser jail terms and another 28 exonerated.

The judges sentenced the city's former security chief, Major General Essam Samak, and a colonel both to 15 years in prison, while the others were acquitted.

The court rulings can be appealed.

Fans of Al-Ahly football club, whose members were killed in a February 2012 stadium riot in Port Said in which 74 people died, had warned police they would retaliate if the defendants were exonerated.

Many residents of Port Said, which is located on the Mediterranean at the northern tip of the vital Suez Canal, say the trial is unjust and politicized, and soccer fans in the city have felt that authorities have been biased in favor of Al-Ahly, Egypt's most powerful club.