CAIRO, (AP) – Egyptian soccer fans burned Algerian flags and rioted outside the Algerian Embassy in Cairo, smashing cars and shop windows, in an escalating row between the two countries over a bitter World Cup rivalry.
Egyptian fans — and the country’s media — have been thrown into a frenzy over reports that Algerians attacked and injured Egyptians after their countries’ teams squared off in a World Cup qualifier in the Sudanese capital Khartoum this week. Algeria won the game 1-0, giving them a spot in the 2010 Cup in South Africa.
Several hundred Egyptian fans rampaged in the streets around the Algerian Embassy overnight into the early hours Friday, scuffling with black-uniformed riot police. It began as a protest, with demonstrators beating drums, shooting jets of flame from aerosol cans and shouting obscenities and slogans against Algerians.
When riot police prevented them from getting close to the embassy, the demonstrators threw stones, smashed nearby cars and windows of shops and ransacked a gas station. Some fans, unable to reach the Algerians, pelted the nearby Indian Embassy with stones. The Interior Ministry said 11 police and 24 protesters were injured, 20 people arrested and 15 vehicles damaged.
During the day Friday, scattered groups of dozens of fans shouted and burned flags near the embassy, kept from the building by multiple lines of riot police with helmets and batons.
In a country where political demonstrations are rare and heavily suppressed by security forces, Egypt’s soccer protests was an unusual show of anger in the streets.
The rivalry has brought violence from both sides the past week.
Wednesday’s match in Khartoum was a playoff after Egypt beat Algeria in a match Saturday in Cairo, 2-0. Before Saturday’s game, Egyptian fans pelted a bus carrying the Algerian team with stones and injured three players. Afterward, 32 people were injured in clashes between Egyptian and Algerian fans. Algerians ransacked offices of Egyptian companies in Algiers.
Following Algeria’s win, Egyptian fans were attacked in Khartoum. Protests have erupted outside the Algerian Embassy in Khartoum repeatedly since.
Egyptian papers have been running front-page stories with pictures of injured fans and headlines trumpeting Algerian attacks on Egyptians in Khartoum. TV shows have also been drumming up fury, airing amateur mobile videos of what appear to be Algerian soccer fans wielding knives and chanting anti-Egyptian slogans.
Speaking to a TV news program, Mohammed Fouad, a popular Egyptian singing star who attended the Khartoum match, called the violence afterward a “bloodbath.”
“If the Jews were beating us, even they wouldn’t have done it so savagely,” he said.
President Hosni Mubarak’s eldest son Alaa, who also attended the Khartoum match, said Egypt should “take a stance” and respond to the Algerians’ “terror, hostility.”
Alaa Mubarak — a businessman who unlike his politically prominent younger brother Gamal, rarely speaks publicly — told Egyptian television, “It is impossible that we as Egyptians take this, we have to stand up and say ‘enough.'”
“When you insult my dignity … I will beat you on the head,” he said.
On Thursday, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry summoned Algeria’s ambassador in Cairo to express “extreme dismay” over the attacks in Khartoum. Egypt’s ambassador in Algiers, Abdul-Aziz Seif al-Nasr, was instructed to return to Egypt for consultations, a ministry statement said.
The Egyptian Football Federation even threatened on Thursday to withdraw from international play to protest the treatment of Egyptian fans in Sudan.
“We call on FIFA to take a serious stance to restore order to the world of football,” the federation said in a statement.