Cairo: Pro-Mubarak groups lobbing rocks at protesters

About 500 people injured in recent round of clashes, says al-Arabiya; Gov't supporters take over army vehicles, throw rocks at protesters from buildings, according to reports; gun shots heard at Tahrir square.

By MELANIE LIDMAN, JPOST CORRESPONDENT, AP
February 2, 2011 17:43
4 minute read.
An Egyptian pro-Mubarak supporter in Cairo, Wed.

pro-mubarak protestors. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

 
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Pro-Mubarak groups 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 Wednesday afternoon, Al-Jazeera reported.

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 the report.

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


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Earlier Wednesday, protests in Cairo turned violent, 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."

The Mediterranean city of Alexandria saw clashes erupt between several hundred protesters and government supporters early Wednesday, Al-Jazeera television footage showed.

Several thousand people outside Mustafa Mahmoud Mosque in the upper-class neighborhood of Mohandiseen waved Egyptian flags and carried a large printed banner with Mubarak's face. Many passing cars honked in apparent support.

Police officers surrounded the area and directed traffic.

The April 6 group, young pro-democracy activists who have used social media and mobile phones to draw people to Tahrir Square, said Mubarak's speech would not satisfy them.

Click here for full Jpost coverage of unrest in 







Egypt

"We will continue our protests in Tahrir Square and around the country until the people's demands are met,'" the group said in a statement sent to The Associated Press. "The people want ouster of the regime."

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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