Cairo:  In a shocking incident, at least 74 people were killed and over a thousand more injured in Egypt's worst-ever soccer violence that saw pitched battles between armed rival football fans in the city of Port Said.

The unprecedented violence occurred last evening following a soccer match between top-tier clubs al-Masry and al-Ahly as fans invaded the pitch after Port Said club al- Masry won 3-1.

Three days of national mourning have been declared in Egypt and all premier-league matches have been postponed indefinitely.

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Emergency meetings of the cabinet and parliament have been called.

Hours after the incident, protesters in Cairo chanted, "Down with military rule." And the secretary-general of the Muslim Brotherhood party blamed Egypt's military for the deaths.

Egypt's interior ministry blamed fans for provoking police.

Witnesses quoted by the media said the atmosphere had been tense throughout the match - since an al-Ahly fan raised a banner insulting supporters of the home team.

As the match ended, their fans flooded onto the pitch attacking al-Ahly players and fans.

A committee will investigate the circumstances surrounding the fighting, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said in a statement.

Angry crowds closed off Cairo's Tahrir Square and state TV today, ahead of protests against the way police handled the riots.

The demonstrators used metal barriers and vehicles to close the square.

"People are angry at the regime more than anything else... People are really angry, you could see the rage in their eyes," al-Ahly supporter Mohammed Abdel Hamid said.

Hundreds gathered at Cairo's main railway station to receive the injured and the first bodies arriving from Port Said, with some chanting slogans against military rule.

"Everyone was beating us. They were beating us from inside and outside, with fireworks, stones, metal bars, and some had knives, I swear," one fan told a private TV station.

Army units were deployed in Port Said and joined police patrols around morgues and hospitals, but most streets had no police presence.

Port Said security chief Essam Samak was sacked after the riot, state media reported.

Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of Egypt's ruling army council, went to an airbase near Cairo to meet al-Ahly players who were flown back from Port Said on a military aircraft.

"This will not bring Egypt down... These incidents happen anywhere in the world. We will not let those behind it go," he said.
It is the biggest disaster in Egypt's football history, the deputy health minister Hesham Sheiha said.

"This is unfortunate and deeply saddening," Sheila told state television, adding that many people died in a stampede as people tried to leave the stadium.

Egyptian fans are notoriously violent, says our correspondent, particularly supporters of al-Ahly known as the Ultras, the BBC reported.

They have been heavily implicated in confronting the police during recent political protests, our correspondent adds. There is speculation that the security forces may have had an interest in taking on al-Ahly supporters.