Egypt was thrust into a fresh crisis last night as security forces fired tear gas at protesters who returned to the streets of Cairo to demonstrate against the deaths of 74 football supporters on Wednesday.
The day after Egypt's worst-ever sporting disaster, with allegations that security forces allowed rival fans to clash, nearly 10,000 gathered in Tahrir Square and at the interior ministry. Resentment grew throughout the day as fans of Cairo's Al-Ahly returned to the capital after Wednesday night's violence in Port Said which led to the club's fans being crushed to death trying to escape Al-Masry supporters.
Supporters of both of Cairo's main clubs – Al-Ahly and Zamalek – were at the vanguard of those taking part in last year's revolution. "They want to punish us and execute us for our participation in the revolution against suppression," said the Al-Ahly fans in a statement, vowing a "new war in defence of the revolution".
The protests had started as a peaceful march from Al-Ahly's headquarters to the area outside the ministry building near Tahrir Square.
Security forces guarding the area were separated from protesters by concrete blocs and barbed wire, but tensions rose as protesters advanced toward them, raising their shoes in the air and hurling stones. Police responded with tear gas, scattering demonstrators. State TV said 100 people passed out from the tear gas.
In Port Said, a clearer picture was emerging about how so many people died when home supporters charged onto the pitch following their team's 3-1 victory. One of the main exits in the stadium, a narrow, downward-sloping stepped corridor about 12ft wide, was padlocked throughout the match. As Al-Masry fans charged towards the stand after the final whistle – many wielding sticks and knives – thousands of visiting Cairo fans fled into the corridor.
Doctors in Port Said told i that most of those who died in the subsequent crush were asphyxiated.
Ahmad Osama, a 23-year-old car mechanic, who witnessed the calamity unfold, said he was in the same stand as the Al-Masry supporters who charged onto the field after the final whistle.
"They weren't here to watch the football," he said, adding that many of the home fans wanted revenge for pre-match violence which marred the same fixture last year. "They just wanted violence," he claimed.