Incensed Egyptians stage protests after deaths

Egyptians incensed by the deaths of 74 people in football violence clashed with security forces on Thursday during protests against the army-led government for failing to prevent the deadliest incident since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.

Security forces fired tear gas at demonstrators near the headquarters of the Interior Ministry in Cairo, prompting hundreds to flee. "Down down with military rule," they chanted, many holding aloft pictures of those killed.

State media reported scuffles between members of the security forces and demonstrators who included hardcore fans known for confronting the police and who were on the frontlines of protests against the state in the last year.

Earlier, a Reuters witness saw a dozen masked youths remove a barbed wire barrier blocking one route to the Interior Ministry and then throwing stones at riot police standing guard.

The Interior Ministry said in a statement that security forces were protecting the building after protesters cut the wire barricades and climbed over concrete walls in an attempt to reach the building.

As tear gas cannisters flew, witnesses saw unconscious people being ferried away from the area on motorbikes and ambulances raced to the scene.

The incident at the stadium in Port Said on Wednesday night was Egypt's worst ever football disaster. Bodies were unloaded from a train at Cairo's main train station, covered by blankets.

"Where is my son?" screamed Fatma Kamal, whose frantic phone calls seeking news of her 18-year-old had gone unanswered. "To hell with the football match... give me back my boy."

At least 1,000 people were injured in the violence when fans invaded the pitch after local team Al-Masry beat Cairo-based Al Ahli, the most successful club in Africa.

Hundreds of al-Masry supporters surged across the pitch to the visitors' end and panicked Ahli fans dashed for the exit. But the steel doors were bolted shut and dozens were crushed to death in the stampede, witnesses said.

"I suddenly heard a commotion and ran to the door to find people getting crushed... with their legs stuck in between the iron bars," said Ahmed Moustafa Ali, an electrician employed at the stadium who witnessed the incident.

"The doors were locked because the rules stipulate that we don't let fans leave at the same time," he said.

The gate lay broken outside the ground on Thursday. Under it lay a pool of blood and shoes were scattered around. The front page of one newspaper announced "A Massacre in Port Said."

The incident has triggered fresh criticism of the ruling military council, which has pledged to hand power to an elected president by the end of June. The head of the council said any attempts to cause instability would not succeed.

In the newly-elected parliament, MPs including the Islamists who control some 70 percent of the chamber demanded the government be held to account during an emergency session attended by Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri.

Addressing angry lawmakers, Ganzouri said senior security chiefs in Port Said and the city's governor had been suspended and the football federation's board had been sacked. But he disappointed those seeking tougher steps, such as firing the interior minister.

Some MPs echoed the suspicion of