At least 20 Egyptians were killed and dozens more injured in clashes with police outside an army-owned soccer stadium in Cairo Sunday, with some reports placing the death toll as high as 27. Police used tear gas to disperse fans, attempting to gain entrance to an Egyptian Premier League game between two Cairo clubs, Zamalek and Enppi.

The number of dead varied as is the way they died. Doctors in Cairo told Reuters the deaths were a result of suffocation while a witness said some fans were killed in a stampede after police fired tear gas. A statement issued by the country's Health Ministry claimed a majority of the deaths were caused by stampeding as evidenced by bruising and several broken necks, the independent Egyptian news site Mada Masr reported.

The Interior Ministry said the clashes were prompted by fans attempting to force their way into the stadium without tickets. “Huge numbers of Zamalek club fans came to Air Defense 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 in a statement, Mada Masr reported.

Some fans have said the incident turned tense because authorities would only open up a narrow barbed-wire door into the stadium, Al Jazeera reported. Egypt has been limiting the number of people allowed into soccer matches since the February 2012 stadium riot in the northern city of Port Said that left more than 70 fans dead. The incident escalated the already high tensions between Egypt’s hardcore soccer fans, known as Ultras, and the country’s security forces.

Zamalek’s ultras, known as Ultras White Knights, were among the bloc of soccer fans who played a role in organizing the protests that led to the overthrow of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Many people believe incidents of police violence against ultras, including the Port Said incident, were acts of revenge by the security forces for the anti-Mubarak uprising, the BBC reported.


Video appearing to show the incident has been spreading on social media, with many commenters expressing their outrage about the actions of the police.