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Egypt Riots: Hundreds Of Protesters Injured As Police Fire Tear Gas

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Security forces have fired tear gas at protesters
Security forces have fired tear gas at protesters

Up to 400 people have been injured in Cairo in renewed violence between security forces and protesters angered by the deaths of 74 fans at a football match.

A march had been planned in Cairo as part of an outcry against the police's failure to prevent the deaths after a pitch invasion at a game in the northern coastal city of Port Said on Wednesday.

However, what began as a peaceful demonstration from the Al-Ahly headquarters to the country's interior ministry soon turned sour as more than 10,000 protesters approached the area around the building, which is close to Tahrir Square, the focal point of last year's demonstrations against the then-president, Hosni Mubarak.

Tear gas was fired by security forces as rocks and other missiles were thrown by protesters who also set fire to tyres, sending thick black smoke into the air.

Ambulances struggled to reach the areas and a number of the injured were seen being transported by motorcycle to hospital. Egyptian state TV said 100 people had passed out because of the tear gas.

The Associated Press reported that protesters appealed to the army to join their cause and demand the resignation of the top generals.

"We dreamed of change. They fooled us and brought us a field marshal instead," the protesters chanted, "Our army must choose between the military council and the revolutionaries."

Earlier on Thursday at an emergency session of the Egyptian parliament, prime minister Kamal al-Ganzouri announced that the head of the country's football association had been sacked and the board dissolved, the BBC reported.

Thursday's protests were triggered after the events at the football match where fans of Al Masry, the home team, flooded the pitch following a rare 3-1 victory over rivals Al-Ahly, the country’s top team. What seemed like a celebratory pitch invasion quickly turned into violence with fans, players and officials all running for their lives.

The government is being blamed for the violence, which saw missiles, flares and bottles thrown as State TV showed fights breaking out across the pitch.

The first funerals took place on Thursday for some of those fans left dead as three days of national mourning were announced and Tahrir Square was closed off.

The violence follows a year of unrest in the North African state, which saw president Mubarak removed from power in one of the early changes of the Arab Spring.

Egyptian Islamists are saying that the rampage was planned, a violent message from supporters of the deposed Mubarak. Security forces are also being blamed for the deaths, with suggestion that they allowed it to happen.

Reuters reported that the Egyptian Army was sent to the stadium to ensure the security of the players, who were eventually removed from the ground. Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of the military regime, met the Al-Ahly team at an air force base near Cairo after they were flown back on a military aircraft.

"This will not bring Egypt down," he said. "These incidents happen anywhere in the world. We will not let those behind it go ...This will not affect Egypt and its security."

Despite the presence of hundreds of police officers, security services seemed helpless to stop the melee as rival fans attacked each other with whatever weapons they could find.

Hesham Sheiha, Egypt's deputy health minister, told state TV: "This is unfortunate and deeply saddening."

One of the Ahli players, Mohamed Abo Treika, spoke to local TV. He said: "This is not football. This is a war and people are dying in front of us. There is no movement and no security and no ambulances. I call for the premier league to be cancelled. This is a horrible situation and today can never be forgotten.”