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Ultras White Knights on stadium clashes: It was "premeditated murder"

The hardcore football fans group raises questions about clashes at the Air Defence Stadium resulting in the deaths of at least 19 but stops short of directly pointing fingers

Ahram Online , Monday 9 Feb 2015
In this Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015 photo, family and friends, of fans killed from a riot at soccer stadium, wait outside Zeinhom morgue in Cairo, Egypt (Photo: AP)

Zamalek club’s hardcore fan group Ultras White Knights “UWK” issued a statement Sunday night describing what happened at the Air Defence Stadium as a “plotted massacre” and “dirty conspiracy” following the killing of 19 football fans in clashes with security forces on Sunday evening.

In a short statement, UWK highlighted actions taken by the Zamalek chairman and police towards the fans in the hours that preceded the game but stopped short of making any direct accusations.

“Did you know that the tiny metal cage where most of the people were killed in was installed only one day before the game, and has never been used before in football games whether in Egypt or worldwide!?” said “UWK” in a short angry statement on Facebook. 

Police had erected a make-shift, wire-barbed metal-fenced narrow path for the fans to enter in order to watch the game between Zamalek and ENPPI.

According to many eye witnesses’ accounts, the narrowness of the path resulted in a deadly stampede as crowds attempted to escape teargas fired by police to disperse them.

It is not yet clear what triggered the deadly confrontation between the police and Zamalek fans.

Meanwhile, the ministry of interior issued statements saying that it could not be held responsible for what happened at the Air Defence Stadium in New Cairo.

“I refuse to hold the ministry of interior responsibile for what happened at the Air Defence Stadium,” Hany Abdel Latiff , the official minister of interior spokesperson told CBC TV channel earlier Monday. 

The ministry of interior maintains that clashes erupted between security forces and fans when they tried to get in by force in to the stadium. 

"The Zamalek fans tried to get in by force, and we had to prevent them from damaging public property," the ministry said in a statement.

Security sources in Cairo security directorate told Ahram Arabic website that 17 football fans were arrested and that not less than 20 police personnel were injured during the clashes. Nineteen football fans died and 20 were injured in the events that unfolded. 

After a 3-year ban on crowds at league football matches, 10,000 fans were allowed to attend the Zamalek match against ENPPI.

The UWK said that the chairman of the Zamalek club Mortada Mansour promised TV outlets prior to the game "a pleasant surprise" was waiting for the White Nights members and fans, hinting that a number larger than 10,000 might be able to attend the match. 

Mansour, who had previously accused some UWK members of attempting to assasinate him,  said his club purchased all the tickets for the game in an agreement with the ministry of interior. 

A total of 5,000 tickets went on public sale and as many were distributed by the club itself. 

Following the Sunday night clashes, Mortada Mansour attacked the UWK group on several TV channels accusing them of "thuggery" repeating his previous demand that the government designate all Ultras groups as terrorist organisations.  

"They [Ultras] want to foil the upcoming parliamentary elections , they want to embarrass Egypt in front of the whole world during President Putin's visit," Mortada Mansour told BBC Arabic channel. 

Zamalek Ultras fans have maintained a tense relationship with the police over the past several years on and off the field.

Ultras fans have also actively opposed what they described as dictatorial, anti-fan policies by Mansour.

Last year Mansour accused several UWK of attempting to assasinate him. Four UWK were recently sentenced to 3 months in jail on charges of assaulting the controversial lawyer figure.

In a separate case, 20 members of the group were recently sentenced to three years in jail for inciting violence and assaulting security forces in a CAF match.

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