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Khartoum under high tension before the electric dual Algeria-Egypt

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KHARTOUM - The Sudanese capital was under high tension Wednesday for the Algeria-Egypt match, decisive for qualification to the World Cup-2010, the authorities imposed strict security measures to try to prevent violence between supporters of both camps.

  •    Thousands of Algerians and Egyptians from Cairo and Algiers have invaded Khartoum, a city of nearly five million inhabitants at the confluence of the two Nile, white and blue, unaccustomed to such major international events of the round ball.

       On the night of Tuesday to Wednesday, Algerian supporters paraded in cars wearing their national flag in front of restaurants where the Egyptians had gathered to dance, sing and chant slogans of encouragement to their team.

       Authorities have deployed 15,000 police prepared to intervene before, during or after the match if overflow between supporters from abroad of which many say be ready to fight after the violence last week.

       On November 12, the bus of the Algerian selection "stoned" shortly after its arrival in Cairo, and three Algerian players were seriously injured. Two days later, Egypt defeated Algeria 2-0, snatching a last minute a play-off match. Violence erupted in Algeria, Egypt and France in the wake of the victory of the "Pharaohs".

       The duel between the North-African rivals will takes place at Al-Merreikh stadium of Omdurman, Khartoum's twin city, which has a capacity of 41,000 seats, but the authorities have limited the number to 35,000 spectators for security reasons.

       The stadium gates will open at 3.30 pm (12:30 GMT) and will close two hours before the scheduled match à 8:00 pm local.

       The embassies of Egypt and Algeria have distributed 9000 tickets each to their nationals most of whom arrived on flights offered free or at bargain prices.

       Supporters of both camps will be arranged at both ends of the stadium and leave Omdurman by two different routes to minimize the risk of clashes, said the Sudanese football federation.

       "A medical team consisting of 400 persons with 120 ambulances will be deployed in the stadium," said Hassan Abdul Aziz, head of the medical committee for the match.

       Khartoum state, large area encompassing the periphery of the capital, has ordered the closure of schools and the end of the working day at 1 pm to limit the movement when supporters will head to the stadium.

       Several embassies have asked their nationals and required their employees not to leave their house when they return from work for fear of slippage.

       The pressure has risen a notch with the remarks Tuesday evening by the President of the Algerian Football Federation, Mohammed Raouraoua, who accused his Egyptian counterpart Samir Zaher being "behind" the violence that occurred in Cairo.

       An important Islamic cleric, Sheikh Youssef Qaradawi, Egyptian-born, has appealed for calm, saying that football is only a game."

       Untoward incidents may occur in Egypt, Algeria and even in France after the match.

       Some 650 policemen will be deployed in Marseille to prevent the recurrence of incidents that followed Saturday's game. Some businesses were hit by in the city centre.

       Algeria has not participated in a World Cup since 1986, Egypt since 1990. The often stormy rivalry between these two leading countries of the Arab and African football is not new. In 1989, a qualifying game had degenerated into riots.


    Ennaharonline/ M. O.

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