Did Soccer Hooligans Assault CBS’s Lara Logan?

Last week’s horrendous beating and sexual assault against CBS Chief Foreign Correspondent Lara Logan is raising questions about the role of ultras, fanatical soccer fans, in the mass protests that toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

A CBS statement said Logan has been attacked on Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the focal point of the protests, while covering the celebrations that erupted immediately after Mubarak’s resignation was announced last Friday.

“Logan and her security team were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration," the statement said. “There were over 200 people in the mob. In the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers."

With the perpetrators of the attack yet to be identified, both supporters and opponents of Mubarak have been blamed for the assault.

Prominent Washington Post columnist David Ignatius suggests supporters of Mubarak may have been the culprits, arguing that they also brutally attacked numerous of the former president’s opponents.

In a twist of the debate, Ignatius quotes two Egyptians close to the organizers of the protests as saying that some on Cairo’s Tahrir Square were not necessarily protesters and seemed more like soccer hooligans. The protesters, the Egyptians said, had worked hard to contain violence within their own ranks.

By implication, Ignatius suggests that Egyptian soccer ultras supported rather than opposed Mubarak and may have been responsible for the despicable attack on Logan. Soccer hooligans may indeed be responsible, nobody knows, and if so they should be held responsible for the despicable act.

Yet, whether soccer hooligans were responsible or not, soccer fans largely played a key role in support of the protests as this blog has extensively documented and prominent Egyptian protesters, including Ahmed Maher, one of the leaders of the April 6 youth movement in an interview with The New York Times and Alaa Abd El Fatah speaking to Al Jazeera, have confirmed.

The importance of soccer fans to the protests certainly does not erase the possibility of soccer hooligans from having been responsible for the dreadful attack on Logan. By the same token, possible responsibility of soccer hooligans does not mean that the majority of fanatical soccer fans backed the ousted Egyptian leader.

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