Pro-Mubarak protesters retreat as anti-gov't rioters charge

630 injured, three killed in clashes; machine guns are fired and Molotov cocktails hurled from surrounding buildings; protesters target Egyptian Museum.

egypt protest rooftop night firebomb 311 (photo credit: AP)
egypt protest rooftop night firebomb 311
(photo credit: AP)
Pro-Mubarak protesters began to retreat from Tahrir Square in Cairo Wednesday night after anti-government protesters charged at them with metal shields.
Molotov cocktails continued to be thrown and gunshots were heard from both sides and from rooftops.
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Earlier, at around 8 p.m., Egyptian state television ordered all demonstrators to evacuate Cairo's Tahrir (Liberation) Square.Anti-government protesters remained in the square, chanting "Leave! Leave!" at Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, as ambulances were stationed in the area. Frequent gunfire was heard in the vicinity of the Egyptian Museum.
A spokesman from the Egyptian Health Ministry on Wednesday said that 630 were injured and three people were killed in the recent round of clashes that erupted in central Cairo earlier in the day.
According to the report, the man who was killed was a "conscript" which means he could have belonged to the army or police.
Pro- and anti-government protesters continued to clash in Cairo on Wednesday, with Mubarak's supporters throwing dozens of Molotov cocktails at those protesting against the regime.
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.
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.
An anti-Mubarak demonstrator told the BBC that she is trapped in Tahrir Square, because the area is surrounded by pro-government rioters.
"If we want to get out we have to go through Mubarak supporters," she said. "I'm scared of going out because my face is now recognizable as an opposition protester."As Supporters and opponents clashed, raining stones, bottles and firebombs on each other in scenes of uncontrolled violence, soldiers stood by without intervening. Government backers galloped in on horses and camels, only to be dragged to the ground and beaten bloody.
At the front line, next to the famed Egyptian Museum at the edge of Tahrir Square, pro-government rioters blanketed the rooftops of nearby buildings, dumping bricks and firebombs onto the crowd below — in the process setting a tree ablaze inside the museum grounds.
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On the street below, the two sides crouched behind abandoned trucks and hurled chunks of concrete and bottles at each other, and some government supporters waved machetes.
Bloodied anti-government protesters were taken to makeshift clinics in mosques and alleyways nearby, and some pleaded for protection from soldiers stationed at the square, who refused. Soldiers did nothing to stop the violence beyond firing an occasional shot in the air and no uniformed police were in sight.
"Hosni has opened the door for these thugs to attack us," one man with a loudspeaker shouted to the crowds during the fighting.
The clashes marked a dangerous new phase in Egypt's upheaval — the first significant violence between supporters of the two camps in more than a week of anti-government protests. Clashes began, first in the port city of Alexandria, just hours after Mubarak went on national television Tuesday night and rejected protesters' demands he step down immediately. He defiantly insisted he would serve out the remaining seven months of his term.