Pro-Mubarak rioters hurl Molotov Cocktails at opposition

About 500 people injured in recent round of clashes, says al-Arabiya; Egyptian museum goes up in flames; Gov't supporters throw rocks at protesters from buildings, according to reports; gun shots heard at Tahrir square.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, MELANIE LIDMAN, , AP
February 2, 2011 19:38
Egyptian protesters throwing rocks

egypt protest rock throwing 311. (photo credit: AP)

Pro-government demonstrators in Cairo threw dozens of Molotov cocktails at those protesting against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday.

Numerous explosives were hurled as the pro-regime mob attempted to push through a no-man's land towards the anti-Mubarak protesters in Cairo's Tahrir (Liberation) Square.

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Witnesses at Tahrir Square also said they heard several shots fired into the air, and water cannons were fired by security officials to try to calm the protests, according to reports.

Al-Jazeera also reported that the Egyptian museum was fire bombed and that the army was trying to put out the fire.

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Protests reportedly also broke out in Alexandria.

Earlier, pro-Mubarak groups also took over three army vehicles and lobbed rocks and other items at anti-government protestors from surrounding buildings,
amid clashes that have been raging at Tahrir Square since early Wednesday afternoon, Al-Jazeera reported.

Al-Arabiya reported that about 500 people were injured in the most recent clashes. 

Protests in Cairo turned violent Wednesday, with protesters throwing large rocks at each other as pro-Mubarak demonstrators tore down anti-Mubarak banners that have decorated Tahrir Square for three days. Tanks on the periphery of the square were starting to move in anticipation of unruly crowds.

Live video broadcast by Al Jazeera showed men on camels and horseback hitting people in the square with whips as they rode through the crowds. Pro-government protesters continued to flow into the square, according to reports.


Women and children were hiding behind tanks in the streets as men in suits threw stones at each other. The protests have not been this violent in nearly a week.

The army was using tear gas to disperse crowds although later reports said that the military was standing by, allowing clashes to continue.
The military has said several times that it has not and will not use force against Egyptian civilians.

Although protests in the central Cairo square have been mostly peaceful since Sunday, the crowds have also been entirely anti-Mubarak until now. Thousands of the Egyptian president's supporters were streaming into the square Wednesday afternoon waving flags and giants posters of the 30-year ruler of Egypt.

Four Israeli journalists were arrested by Egyptian military police in Cairo on Wednesday. Three of those arrested work for Channel 2 and the fourth is from Nazareth.

The issue was being dealt with by the Foreign Ministry.

Earlier, anti-government demonstrators were seen forming a human chain in an attempt to keep Mubarak supporters from reaching Tahrir Square early Wednesday afternoon.

Pro-government protesters began taking to the streets in the thousands in the morning, hours after Mubarak made a defiant speech promising to serve out the last months of his term and to "die on Egyptian soil."

On Wednesday morning, the Egyptian military called for an end to more than a week of demonstrations demanding Mubarak step down.

"Your message has arrived, your demands became known," military spokesman Ismail Etman said on state television in an address directed to young protesters. "You are capable of bringing normal life to Egypt."

Peaceful protests

Meanwhile, Thousands of Egyptians gathered in an upscale Cairo boulevard Wednesday to cheer on President Hosni Mubarak in their first mass counter-demonstration after more than a week of calls for him to resign.

Many praised Mubarak for keeping the country at peace after a series of wars with Israel. Others said they felt personally humiliated by anti-Mubarak demonstrators jeering a man they saw as a symbol of the nation.

The mood was angry and defiant but the protest was mostly peaceful, in contrast to the scene in Cairo's main square, where hundreds of young pro-government supporters attacked crowds of thousands demanding his ouster.

On the boulevard in the middle-class, heavily commercial neighborhood of Mohandiseen, men in designer sunglasses and women with expensive hairdos joined government employees, including a few dozen nurses in white dresses and stockings who jumped and chanted, "We love you Mubarak!" Younger men carried portraits of Mubarak and shouted in support. Children painted their faces with the black, white and red colors of the Egyptian flag.

Pro-Mubarak protesters also gathered in other middle-class Cairo neighborhoods and the Nile Delta town of Luxor.

"We have been a stable country since the days of the Pharoahs. These demonstrators want to turn us into Somalia: poor and at war with itself," cried Samir Hamid, a 58-year-old war veteran who said his age made him remember life before Mubarak took power nearly 30 years ago. He said he recalled struggling to find bread in the pre-Mubarak years, and the wailing of Egyptian women who lost their sons in wars against Israel.

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Egypt

Mubarak says he will not seek re-election

In his 10-minute televised address to the nation Tuesday night, the 82-year-old Mubarak appeared somber but spoke firmly and without an air of defeat. He insisted that even if the protests demanding his ouster had never broken out, he would not have sought a sixth term in September.

He said he would serve out the rest of his term working "to accomplish the necessary steps for the peaceful transfer of power." He said he will carry out amendments to rules on presidential elections, and vowed not to flee the country.

The step came after heavy pressure from his top ally, the United States. Soon after Mubarak's address, US President Barack Obama said at the White House that he had spoken with Mubarak and "he recognizes that the status quo is not sustainable and a change must take place." Obama said he told Mubarak that an orderly transition must be meaningful and peaceful, must begin now and must include opposition parties.

Mubarak would be the second Arab leader pushed from office by a popular uprising in the history of the modern Middle East, following the ouster last month of the president of Tunisia — another North African nation.


Jpost.com staff contributed to this report


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