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Feb. 2, 2012 at 12:00 PM
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Officials out after Egypt soccer riot

CAIRO, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- The governor of the Egyptian city where 74 people died in post-soccer match rioting has resigned while two other city officials are in custody, officials said.

The director of security and the head of investigations in Port Said were suspended while protesters demonstrated against the handling of Wednesday's riot by police, the BBC reported.

The board of the Egyptian football association has been dissolved and its members are to be questioned by prosecutors, Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri told an emergency session of parliament.

Meanwhile, authorities have declared three days of national mourning in the wake of the riot, which started when fans descended on the field after the home team, al-Masry, beat top Cairo club al-Ahly 3-1.

Scores of people were injured, CNN said.

All Egyptian Premier League matches have been postponed indefinitely.

Egypt's public prosecutor ordered that 52 people arrested in connection with the rioting be questioned as well as the Port Said governor and head of security.

Funerals for five of the victims were held after noon prayers.

A committee will investigate the circumstances that caused the riot, Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said in a statement Thursday.

Emergency officials said fans from both sides bashed each other with rocks and chairs, CNN reported. Many of the victims died when they fell from the bleachers. Others suffocated, witnesses said.

Mamdouh Eid, the executive manager of the al-Ahly fans committee, said police were slow to step in to stop the violence.

"The police stood there watching, and the ambulances arrived late. I carried several dead fans in my arms," he was quoted as saying by CNN.

Eid said tensions had been building during the game and alleged Port Said fans threw bottles and rocks at players.

"There were organized groups in the crowds that purposely provoked the police all through the match and escalated the violence and stormed onto the field after the final whistle," said Gen. Marwan Mustapha of Egypt's interior ministry. "Our policemen tried to contain them, but not engage."

Egypt's Islamic Muslim Brotherhood has claimed the violence was linked to an "invisible" foreign hand, Bikyamasr.com reported.

"This confirms that there is invisible planning that is behind this unjustified massacre. The authorities have been negligent," the group said in a statement on its Web site. "We fear that some officers are punishing the people for their revolution and for depriving them of their ability to act as tyrants and restricting their privileges."

Al-Ahly players said police and armed forces were nowhere to be seen during or after the clashes. Video shows riot police, clad with shields, standing immobile and not moving to intervene, Bikyamasr.com reported.

Palestinian protesters throw shoes at Ban

GAZA, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- Palestinian protesters threw shoes, sticks and stones at a convoy with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Thursday as it entered Gaza.

About 40 protesters briefly held up the convoy as it tried to enter the Gaza Strip from southern Israel, Voice of America said. No injuries were reported and the convoy resumed its travel once security officials removed the protesters, witnesses said.

Throwing shoes is a sign of disrespect in some cultures.

Most of the protesters were relatives of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, VOA said. Among their complaints, included on signs the protesters carried, were that the United Nations was biased toward Israel and that the non-government organization has refusal to meet with Palestinian prisoner groups.

Ban is in the Middle East to try to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that broke down in 2010 over a dispute about Israeli settlement construction on occupied land.

Ban met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Wednesday in Ramallah, West Bank, to discuss the stalled talks, the Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.

"We fully believe that the way to reach peace with Israel is through negotiations," Abbas said during a news conference.

Israel, however, hasn't offered any proposals in recent talks in Jordan to justify a resumption of negotiations, Abbas said.

Ban, who said an independent Palestinian state "was long over due," agreed with Abbas that negotiations was the only avenue to a two-state solution.

Miss. Supreme Court takes pardons cases

JACKSON, Miss., Feb. 2 (UPI) -- The Mississippi Supreme Court is set to hear arguments about whether several pardons made by former Gov. Haley Barbour violated the state constitution.

The court said Wednesday it would hear attorneys representing four pardoned former Governor's Mansion trusties, instead of the Hinds County Circuit Court, WAPT-TV, Jackson, Miss., reported.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has argued that pardons issued by Barbour, including those granted to convicted murders David Gatlin, Charles Hooker, Anthony McCray, Joseph Ozment and convicted robber Nathan Kern, violated a state constitutional requirement that notice be posted for 30 days in newspapers in the area the crimes were committed.

Attorneys for Gatlin, Hooker, McCray and Kern all asked that the Mississippi Supreme Court consider the case rather than the lower court.

The justices will hear arguments on Feb. 9 in Jackson.

Ferry carrying about 300 aboard sinks

KIMBE, Papua New Guinea, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- About 240 passengers have been rescued from a ferry that sank off the coast of Papua New Guinea early Thursday, officials said.

Rabual Shipping, the company that owns the ferry, said there were 248 passengers aboard when the ship left Kimbe. Police in Kimbe, however, said they believe 350 people were aboard when the ship departed, mostly trainee teachers and students.

Rabual Shipping lost contact with the vessel early Thursday and sent a distress call to nearby merchant ships to initiate a search.

Disaster co-ordinator Charlie Massange told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. the rescue effort was complicated by rough seas.

"The weather is windy, quite strong and also the sea is a bit rough," he said. "So that means small boats can't go out to rescue them, only big ships."

Rescue planes also were dispatched and rescuers said they spotted passengers using the ferry's life rafts.

Locals surrounded Rabual Shipping's office in Kimbe demanding information. When the company could not provide any, the crowd began to pelt the office with rocks. The office staff was evacuated by police.

Ft. Hood slaying suspect seeks trial delay

FORT HOOD, Texas, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- Lawyers representing the U.S. Army psychiatrist charged in the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, said they plan to seek a delay in his court-martial.

Lt. Col. Kris Poppe, Army Maj. Nidal Hasan's lead attorney, said the request expected to be made Thursday in a hearing is "purely a matter of necessity" so the defense has adequate time for pre-trial preparation, CNN reported.

Hasan is charged with killing 13 people and wounding dozens more in the shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas, on Nov. 5, 2009.

His court-martial, in which prosecutors will seek the death penalty, is scheduled to begin March 5.

Hasan has not entered a plea.

Phil sees shadow; 6 more weeks of winter

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa., Feb. 2 (UPI) -- Winter will be hanging around for another six weeks -- Pennsylvania's famed Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow Thursday.

And for his effort, the rodent got booed by the crowd, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

About 18,000 people gathered before dawn around Gobbler's Knob in the town about an hour from Pittsburgh to learn what the four-legged prognosticator saw -- or didn't see.

Legend says if Phil sees his shadow, winter will last another six weeks. If he doesn't see his shadow, spring will arrive in the same time frame: six weeks.

Forecasters at Accuweather.com took issue with Phil's prognostications.

"There is some winter left on the table, but not a full six weeks for most of the U.S.," said Paul Pastelok, expert long-range meteorologist and leader of the AccuWeather.com Long-Range Forecasting Team, after Phil's prognostication.

Pastelok said a severe cold snap is expected in the Great Lakes and Northeast with one or two big storms possible, but by the end of the month and through March, milder weather should predominate.

In Woodstock, Ill., where the 1993 film "Ground Hog Day" was shot, Woodstock Willie predicted an early spring.

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