DAMASCUS (Reuters)–About 14 people have died in the northeast Syrian city of Kameshli in rioting sparked by fighting at a soccer match on Friday.
As panicked fans tried to escape–a stampede resulted–injuring and killing the victims–witnesses said.
State-run Syrian Radio reported the deaths as it began live coverage of the match–which was quickly called off.
One witness said visiting fans also shouted slogans that offended Syrian Kurdish supporters of Kameshli–a town near the Iraqi border that has a large Syrian Kurdish population.
Police surrounded the stadium and fired shots in the air–but it was not clear whether they had been able to stop the fighting. Officials were not immediately available for comment.
Hospital officials said four of the injured had bullet wounds–including an 11-year-old boy who had been shot in the stomach.
Visiting fans threw sticks and stones at the Kameshli supporters–witnesses said. "We had nothing to defend ourselves with because we were not expecting this–so we had to run and there was a stampede," a witness said.
The stadium clash led to rioting yesterday by Syrian Kurds living in the city. About nine people died and up to 40 needed hospital treatment. The rioting spread to nearby Amouda–Ras al-Ain–and al-Hassaka–where buildings were also damaged.
Sources close to government said they believed certain Kurdish politicians were turning the issue "from a soccer-match riot into an issue of a political dimension," a reference to deman’s by some 200,000 Syrian Kurds who are not recognized as citizens.
The Hairenik weekly newspaper contacted the Armenian Prelacy in Kameshli to confirm the status of the Armenian population in the region. The Prelacy reported that stability had been fully restored on Monday–and that all Armenia’s there and in sounding areas–are safe.
Kurds make up some two million of Syria’s 17 million large population. But Syrian officials avoid reference to Kurds as a distinct minority and stress the importance of national unity.