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Saturday Dec. 11, 2010 11:18 AM (EST+7)
Jordanian soccer violence leaves 250 hurt

Read more: soccer, Palestinians, Jordan

AMMAN, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Around 250 people were injured in Amman on Friday in clashes between fans after Jordan's largest Palestinian soccer team beat a rival local team, hospital staff said.

Matches between the rival teams have a long history of violence, mirroring the divisions between the country's majority Palestinians and native Jordanians, mostly tribes who inhabited the East Bank of the River Jordan before the influx of Palestinians after the creation of Israel in 1948.

Witnesses said the violence erupted after the Palestinian Wihdat team won a crucial match 1-0 against the Jordanian Faisali team to qualify them for the domestic league.

Riot police fired teargas and sealed off the stadium's exits, triggering a stampede in which a large metal fence separating the crowds from the playing field collapsed, witnesses said.

What we saw today was a massacre led by the gendarme forces who acted without wisdom. If they had a sense of national duty they would have protected these crowds because this is their duty and there was no rival crowd in the stadium. They instigated the trouble, Tareq Khoury, the president of Wihdat, told Reuters.

Despite making up a majority in the country, Jordanians of Palestinian origin are marginalised in the government and barred from entry into the army and security forces.

Deputy Prime Minister and official spokesman Ayman Safadi told the state news agency Petra the authorities intervened to restore order after bottle throwing from inside the stadium.

He said 150 people, including 25 police officers, were taken to hospital with injuries. Hospital staff said at least 250 to 300 were injured.

Witnesses blamed the police for preventing the Wihdat team fans from leaving the stadium as angry Faisali supporters threw stones at them from outside after their team lost.

Faisali team supporters, as is customary for a losing team, left the stadium first to avoid friction.

Hundreds of angry Wihdat fans lit flares close to the Basheer hospital in the teeming Palestinian Wihdat Refugee camp, on the southern edge of the sprawling capital, where many of injured were being treated.

Many Wihdat supporters say the police are biased against them and reacted to their victory over Faisali, a soccer team that is viewed as a fertile ground for Jordanian nationalists.

A match last year in which Faisali fans chanted slogans denigrating the Palestinian origin of Queen Rania, the wife of King Abdullah and her son Crown Prince was the subject of a U.S. embassy cable published by WikiLeaks.

The King's silence on the game and its political implications is deafening. High level government contacts and members of the diplomatic community are puzzled by the King's failure to respond to a verbal attack on his family that also dips in to Jordanian identity politics, the cable said. (Writing by Suleiman al-Khalidi; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)






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