CAIRO -- Relatives and angry young men rampaged through the Egyptian city of Port Said Saturday in assaults that killed at least 27 people following death sentences for local fans involved in the country's worst bout of soccer violence.
Unrest surrounding the second anniversary of Egypt's revolution also broke out in Cairo and other cities for a third day, with protesters clashing for hours with riot police who fired tear gas that covered swaths of the capital's downtown.
The divisive verdict and bloodshed highlight challenges being faced by President Mohammed Morsi, who took office seven months ago after an Egyptian revolution that ousted autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak. Critics say Morsi has failed to carry out promised reforms in the country's judiciary and police force, and claim little has improved in the two years after the uprising against Mubarak.
The Islamist leader, Egypt's first freely elected and civilian president, met for the first time with top generals as part of the newly formed National Defense Council to discuss the deployment of troops in two cities. The military was deployed to Port Said hours after the verdict was announced, and warned that a curfew could be declared in areas of unrest. The military was also deployed to the canal city of Suez, where protesters attacked the main security compound there after eight people were killed late Friday.
Yesterday's riot in Port Said stemmed from animosity between police and die-hard soccer fans known as Ultras, who also were part of the mass uprising against Mubarak that began on Jan. 25, 2011, and at the forefront of protests against the military rulers who assumed temporary power after his ouster.
It also reflected tensions after the uprising that reached into all sectors of Egyptian life, even sports.
Survivors and witnesses said Mubarak loyalists had a hand in instigating last year's attack. Others say police were responsible for gross negligence in the Feb. 1 soccer brawl that killed 74 fans.
Anger at police was evident in Port Said, home to most of the 73 men accused of involvement in the bloodshed, although the trial was held outside Cairo.
Judge Sobhi Abdel-Maguid did not give his reasoning when he handed down the sentences for 21 defendants. Executions in Egypt are usually carried out by hanging.
Verdicts for the remaining 52 defendants, including nine security officials, are scheduled to be delivered March 9.