Update as of 3:45 a.m. EST: Egyptian authorities said Monday that the death toll from clashes between police officials and soccer fans, had been revised down to 19 from the earlier estimate of 22 given by prosecutors, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported. Officials reportedly said that victims were crushed to death as several fans tried to force their way into a stadium in Cairo.
The AFP report added that 18 people were arrested, and cited officials denying fans’ claims of gunshots being fired by police. A health ministry official also reportedly said that there were no gunshot wounds on the 19 people who died and their injuries were similar to what one would suffer in a stampede.
"The deaths were caused due to a stampede. There are no signs of gunshot or birdshot," Khaled al-Khatib, the head of Egypt's emergency services, said confirming the death toll at 19, according to AFP, adding: "The victims had lots of bruises, while some had broken necks... People were trampling each other."
Egypt suspended its soccer league matches indefinitely after at least 22 people died in clashes between supporters of the Egyptian Premier League club Zamalek and police. The clashes began on Sunday when police reportedly used tear gas to disperse the unruly fans and prevent them from entering a premier league game between two Cairo clubs, Zamalek and Enppi.
The Egyptian Interior Ministry claimed the clashes began after Zamalek supporters tried to attend the game without buying tickets. "Huge numbers of Zamalek club fans came to Air Defence Stadium to attend the match ... and tried to storm the stadium gates by force, which prompted the troops to prevent them from continuing the assault," the ministry said, according to Al Jazeera. The report added that at least 40 people were killed and dozens injured in the stampede and clashes, citing heath officials.
Supporters reportedly claimed on social media, that the authorities opened only one barbed-wire door to let them inside the stadium, leading to crowd mismanagement. Police officers started pushing and shoving the fans, and also used tear gas to disperse them, media reports said.
"A few people walked in slowly and then we had someone telling us they would let us in from the back door," a Zamalek fan said, according to Al Jazeera, adding: "So people thought it would be OK, but then they started using tear gas and because of the large numbers [of people], some started to run and to jump over the fence [to escape the overcrowding] ... This is when they were confronted by the security forces."
An arrest warrant was reportedly issued against the leaders of Zamalek supporters' group or the Ultras White Knights. The country’s public prosecutor is investigating the reason behind the clashes.
The match had continued so far despite the ensuing violence and had triggered more outrage among the fans. The Ultras White Knights called the incident a “massacre” on its Facebook page.
In 2012, a similar incident killed at least 70 people, following which the Egyptian government imposed limits on the number of people who can watch the matches, BBC reported.