Sudan has tightened security ahead of a crucial World Cup football qualifying match between Algeria and Egypt.
At least 15,000 police have been deployed in the capital, Khartoum, and Omdurman, the city of the opposite bank of the Nile river, which is hosting Wednesday’s match, after clashes marred the two team’s match in Cairo last Saturday.
Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Vall, reporting from the Al Merreikh stadium, said: “Since the early afternoon there has been a growing number of police around the stadium, and inside the stadium as well.
“As the tension was heightened as the stadium filled up we could see a cordon of policemen standing around the playing field,” he said.
“They are more towards the Algerian fans as there have been activities, more shouting and more fireworks on their side than the Egyptian side.”
Thousands of supporters are in Sudan for the game, although Sudanese authorities have reduced the normal capacity of 41,000 to 35,000 in order to allow strict segregation of the fans.
Algerian fans were seen on the streets of Khartoum on Tuesday waving flags, while groups of Egyptians sang and chanted slogans.
Both sides have been provided with 9,000 tickets.
|Egyptian and Algerian fans were allocated 9,000 tickets for the match [AFP]
Two separate camps several kilometres apart were set up for opposing fans who travelled travel to the stadium via different routes.
A 400-member medical team and 120 ambulances will be on standby at the stadium, Hassan Abdelaziz, the head of a medical committee set up for the match, said.
The UN and Western embassies told their staff and citizens to avoid the match, while Khartoum closed government schools and told civil servants in the capital to leave work early.
Before Saturday’s inconclusive game in Cairo Egyptian fans stoned the Algerian team bus on Thursday, wounding three players.
Post-match clashes left about 20 Algerian fans injured, prompting attacks on Egyptian firms in Algeria.
Mohammed Raouraoua, the head of the Algerian football federation, added to the dispute on Wednesday by saying that Samir Zaher, his Egyptian counterpart, was to blame for the violence.
“He is the origin of all the events that have occurred, including the barbaric aggression that injured … our players, shocked them and put them under extremely unfavourable conditions,” Raouraoua said.
“It was he who … called on his supporters to make the ground shake under the feet of the Algerian delegation.”
However, Ahmed Abul Gheit, the Egyptian foreign minister, said that he had told the Algerian government to confront the “saboteurs”.
Fifa, the world football governing body, arranged for the match to be played in Sudan after Egypt won the previous game 2-0, leaving the teams level in the qualification table.
There has been antipathy between the North African teams since a 1989 match in Cairo after which riots erupted.
It has been 19 years since Egypt played in a World Cup finals, while Algeria last qualified in 1986.